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What's in a Name?

Updated: Feb 6

It was early March, 2020. I was in Johnson City on back-to-back shoots, off to Kingsport the next day. Maybe I knew, deep down, that things were about to get serious. The feeling in the air was definitely weird, but not in a way we could put our fingers on. My phone began to ring, and text notifications were streaming in: cancelled, postponed, not sure when. In just a couple of hours, every booking I had on my calendar was gone.

The pandemic was real, and it was bad. The production industry, like so many others, came to a grinding halt that would last for months. I found myself at home from early March to mid-August. It was quite the uncertain time with no apparent end date. As we sat at home, wondering what the future would hold, I knew I had to make some kind of productive use of the time. If there was even a chance that production was coming back, I wanted to be ready.

To be honest, I'd also gone a little stir crazy after a few days. With just me and my wife at home, there was no social life and there wasn't much going out in public... to the empty streets of downtown. Then it hit me: I needed a brand. Through my entire career, I had been Alex, a sound mixer. It wasn't flashy and it wasn't fancy. It was just normal, and I don't like normal.

So began the search for a brand. I racked my brain for a couple of days before the light bulb lit up. Room tone is often mocked on set, and tends to be the bane of every department's existence except for sound. That was it! Sort of. It needed something more. It needed some flare, some pizzazz. It needed translation to another language.

After some internal debate, I realized that Latin can be quite useful, and a bit forgiving for rough translation or creative interpretation. It may be a dead language, but it's a heck of a lot of fun when trying to create a motto. Unfortunately, I remembered only slivers of my Latin classes from grades 7 and 8. Internet dictionaries were somewhat helpful, though.

"Sound" was the easy part: sono. "Room" was a bit more complicated, as Latin doesn't have a generic word for that. Kitchen? Sure. Bedroom? Of course. But just plain "room"? Not so much. The closest I could find was "locus", which can translate to "location" or can refer to the general space immediately around the subject. Sono Locus! It works, and on two levels: "room tone" or "location sound".

Sono Locus official logo

And for those wondering: yes, the background image is a waveform of my voice saying "Sono Locus".

I decided I wanted to go one step further and complete the phrase "hold for room tone". Again, I was up against the constraints of Latin and words they didn't have. Moreover, I was trying to translate a vernacular phrase that simply didn't exist in ancient Rome. I'd come up with a few options, but there is no direct Latin word for "to hold" in terms of stopping where you are. The one that seemed to fit the best was conquiesco or conquiescere: to settle down, to be still, to be quiet. Ugh... I cannot remember how to conjugate verbs in Latin.

I reached out to the best resources I could think of: a college student I knew who had recently taken Latin, and my middle school Latin Teacher. Mrs. Eastwood is retired and living up north, but a Facebook message was all it took. I also needed confirmation that adjective-noun was the proper order (it can go either way). They both agreed that conquiscere was probably the most eloquent verb option, and after exchanging a few more messages we arrived at the proper third-person imperative: conquiescite. It was perfect. It rolled off the tongue. It was exactly what I was looking for: Conquiescite Sono Locus! Hold for room tone!

Tee shirt design reading “Conquiescite Sono Locus”

And so this brand, this website, and my new logo, were born. In addition, I had a sizable order of tee shirts printed with the full "Conquiescite Sono Locus". I may still have a few. Contact me if you're interested.

So, with thanks to Aly and to Mrs. Eastwood, I have been working as Sono Locus since then. And there may be more ways to play with the "hold for room tone" trope. Stay tuned.

Sketch of Shakespeare wearing headphones.

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