Sound follows function // Sound communication and the relevance of timbre.

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In many domains, e.g. industrial sound design or audio-branding, designers look for sounds to communicate certain values and to convey information. As computer displays get smaller on devices such as …

In many domains, e.g. industrial sound design or audio-branding, designers look for sounds to communicate certain values and to convey information. As computer displays get smaller on devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants, sound will become even more important for providing information to users. Sound can enrich a user’s information awareness. A better understanding of the relation between the physical characteristics (acoustics) of a sound and its perceived emotional/affective qualities (aesthetics) as well as its attributed function/meaning (semiotics and semantics), will improve creation and selection of appropriate audio content. An explorative study using auditory icons, auditory symbols (earcons) and a combination of the both (auditory symcons) was carried out to shed more light on acoustic communication with non-speech sounds. The study reveals amongst others, that further investigation on the acoustical parameter ‘timbre’ is required. Thus, an ongoing study that addresses the perception of timbre is presented.

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  • 1. wew Sound follows function Sound communication and the relevance of timbre. Lecturer: Rainer Hirt & Kai Bronner (audio-branding.de)
  • 2. wew 01 Acoustic signs and its functions 02 Overview ongoing Functional-Timbre-Study (FTS)
  • 3. wew 01 Acoustic signs and its functions 02 Overview ongoing Functional-Timbre-Study (FTS)
  • 4. wew 01 Acoustic signs and its functions
  • 5. wew A. Basics
  • 6. Signs? A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 7. Signs! A sign is a stimulus pattern that has a meaning. A sign stands for something else. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 8. Semiotics: Theory of signs Index An „Index“ is defined by some sensory feature (something directly visible, audible, smellable, etc) that is connected to it. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 9. Semiotics: Theory of signs Icon An icon is a pattern that physically resembles what it „stands for“. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 10. Semiotics: Theory of signs Symbol Symbols are arbitrary and unmotivated, reliant on conventional usage to determine meaning. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 11. Acoustic signs? A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 12. Acoustic signs! Index Icon Symbol Index becomes Icon Symbol becomes Icon A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 13. Applications of acoustic signs Corporate Sound Cultural Auditory-User-Interface Auditory Display Audification A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 14. Basic design-approaches of acoustic signs: Auditory icons Auditory symbols Auditory symcons (Mixed) A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 15. wew B. Empirical study
  • 16. Ambition & research questions 1. Appropriateness of Auditory icons/symbols and symcons for the transfer of information-functions: –> Advice –> Warning –> Emergency 2. Effects of the mixture of icon and symbol („auditory symcon“) 3. Advantages of acoustic signs for „public-user-interfaces“ A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 17. Analysis of a situation – Talks with manfactures and customers (Höft-Wessel, ICA, DB) – Secondary literature – Preliminary study (semantic field-analysis) A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 18. Study object Ticket machine A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 19. Study design Study method: Descriptive study Survey sample size : N=22 Age average: 35 years Women/Men: 10/12 A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 20. Lab set-up > Lectern (Terminal-simulation) > Table-PC (Touchpad) > Headphone A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 21. Stimuli lic conic nic ymbo ym ico s s Advice: „Ticket ready for collection“ 1 2 3 Advice: „Money ready for collection “ 1 2 3 Warning: „Timeout“ 1 2 3 Emergency: Deterrence 1 2 3 Context-Soundscape (Trainstation) A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 22. Evaluation methods Semantic differential A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 23. Evaluation methods Semantic differential Categorical scaling A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 24. Evaluation methods Semantic differential Categorical scaling Response time measurement A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 25. Evaluation methods Semantic differential Categorical scaling Response time measurement Participant observation A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 26. Evaluation methods Semantic differential Categorical scaling Response time measurement Participant observation Association analysis A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 27. wew C. Results
  • 28. Ambition & research questions 1. Appropriateness of Auditory icons/symbols and symcons for the transfer of information-functions: –> Advice –> Warning –> Emergency 2. Effects of the mixture of icon and symbol („auditory symcon“) A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 29. Ambition & research questions Auditory Icon Auditory Symbol Auditory Symcon Advice Warning Emergency Funtion(intention) partially transferred Funtion(intention) transferred Funtion(intention) not transferred or false interpretation A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 30. Ambition & research questions 3. Advantages of acoustic signs for „public-user-interfaces“ A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 31. Ambition & research questions 3. Advantages of acoustic signs for „public-user-interfaces“ The meaning of function of acoustic signs is comprehended intuitively. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 32. Further investigations The study reveals amongst others, that further investigation on the acoustical parameter „timbre“ is required. In the literature there is nearly no advice for selecting timbre according an information-function. Thus, an ongoing study that addresses the perception of timbre is topic of the further presentation. A. Basics B. Study C. Results
  • 33. wew 02 Timbre and function
  • 34. A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 35. wew A. Timbre: definition & properties
  • 36. Timbre – what? Definition Definition (American Standards Association 1960) Timbre is that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which a listener can judge that two sounds similarly presented and having the same loudness and pitch are dissimilar. A B A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 37. Timbre properties Verbal descriptions overtone constellation: bright, dark, mellow, hollow, pure noise content: raspy, breathy, hoarse attack: smooth, abrupt, sharp, gentle, easing Relations pitch - frequency loudness - amplitude timbre - multiple interacting acoustic factors A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 38. Timbre properties H. Fletcher (1934) Experiments show that a simple one-to-one relationship does not exist between the two sets { loudness, pitch, timbre } and { sound intensity, fundamental frequency and overtone structure } sound intensity loudness fundamental frequency pitch overtone structure timbre A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 39. Timbre properties More than one dimension: multidimensionality Erickson (1975) Clearly timbre is a multidimensional stimulus: it cannot be correlated with any single physical dimension. Plomp (1982) Sounds cannot be ordered on a single scale with respect to timbre. Timbre is a multidimensional attribute of the perception of sounds. A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 40. Multi-Dimensionality-Scaling MDS MDS studies reveal perceptual dimensions correlated with acoustic parameters corresponding to spectral, temporal and spectrotemporal properties of the sound events. – experiments with paired sound stimuli – rating of similarity – axes corresponding to timbre‘s main perceptual dimensions –> timbre space A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 41. Dimensions Dimension I = brightness Low brightness : french horn and cello Dimension I High brightness : oboe, muted trombone Dimension II = spectral flux High synchronicity and low fluctuation : clarinet, saxophone Low synchronicity and high fluctuation : flute, violoncello Dimension III = attack quality III Dimension II ion More transients : strings, flute imens D Fewer transients : brass, bassoon A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 42. Timbre dimensions and related parameters Across studies, several acoustic/physical parameters corresponding to timbre dimensions were found: – Spectral centroid – Spectral flux – Spectral deviation – Pitch strength – Spectral density – Attack synchronity – Attack time – Attack centroid – Decay time – Noisiness –Amplitude envelope ... A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 43. wew B. Sound perception
  • 44. Timbre and psychoacoustic properties Interview Dr. Gerhard Thoma, chief sounddesigner BMW: (http://www.goethe.de/ges/wrt/dos/aut/sou/de2169434.htm , 10/2007) (...) There are sets of regression equations that help calculating/predicting a desired sound perception, for example a sporty sound: a x sharpness + b x roughness + c x fluctuation strength, … = sportiness.!! About 80 % of people will evaluate the sound in terms of sportiness. But:„acid test“in driving situation (context) = proof of validity!(...) A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 45. Psychoacoustic properties and cognitive/affective evaluation – simple psychoacoustic parameters only refer to fixed relations of perception and instantaneous stimuli (Haverkamp 2007) – psychoacoustics are only capturing parts of human sound perception, largely excluding important affective + cognitive evaluation (Vjästfall/Kleiner 2002) – any endeavour to evaluate (product) sounds by psychoacoustics solely will fail in the end (Blauert/Jekosch 1997) A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 46. Sound perception: target groups/context – individual differences of preferences of particular groups of people for qualitatively different product sounds – no simple „universal“ manipulation that will have the same effect on the sound quality of products (Spence & Zampini 2006) –> target groups (age, cultural background, milieus/lifestyle) have to be taken into account –> it is important to consider the kind/type of product = context A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 47. Emotional evaluation and functional content Activation tense alert Model of affective circumplex Emergency nervous excited (Russell, 1980) elated stressed Warning upset happy Advice Unpleasant Pleasant Confirmation contented sad serene depressed relaxed bored Deactivation A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 48. Sound perception: evaluation of sound (timbre) To be taken in account: – psychoacoustic properties of sound – learned associations – cultural background and personal experiences (target group) – context: mood of subjects, expectations, situation – influence from other modalities (vision, touch,...) A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 49. wew C. Study design
  • 50. Functional Timbre Study („sound-colour the Gestalt“) VARIABLES (TIGA) Independent: Timbre T Gestalt G [pitch contour, rhythm, tone duration] Dependent: Information-function I [function, e.g. emergency, warning, advice/confirmation] Attribution A [emotional/affective evaluation: warm, harsh, sharp,...] A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 51. Sound-colour the Gestalt Approach: sound-colour T the Gestalt G and examine evaluations of subjects regarding information-function I and attribution A A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 52. Example of stimuli Same Gestalt, different timbre A B A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 53. Study Design Step 1: free association task 3 Gestalt x 8 Timbre = 24 sound-stimuli are evaluated by subjects –> pool of attributes Step 2: rating of stimuli Rating of 24 stimuli on Likert scales of attributes obtained from step 1 + assessment of given information function Step 3: analysis of results Principal-Component-Analysis, Generalized-Linear-Models. Examination of correlations between acoustic properties, rated attributes, information function. –> Findings and results serve as a basis for further investigations! A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 54. Study Design Timbre selection Timbre differing in parameter values („timbre dimensions“) bright dull/dim spectral content: static dynamic static dynamic temporal content: hard soft hard soft hard soft hard soft attack/cutoff: A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 55. Study Design Gestalt creation Typical forms of sound-gestalt (learned associations) descending major third of a doorbell („ding dong“) (association: welcome) wailing siren, in germany a fourth: a-d a-d (police or ambulance) (association: emergency - alert) Scherer/Osinsky 1977 Tonality: major mode: indicative of pleasantness and happiness minor mode: disgust and anger Rhythm: rhythmic: more active, fearful, surprised nonrhythmic: boredom Activity = Fast tempo, high pitch level, many harmonics, large pitch variation, sharp envelope, small amplitude variation A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 56. Fields of expertise/collaboration Relevant fields of expertise: music psychology, sound-/acoustic-communication, sounddesign, sound-/music-computing, statistical methods –> interdisciplinary team We are not the only ones: Product Sound Design Group TU Delft Music Technology Group Barcelona Music, Mind and Machine Group (MIT Media Lab , USA) Music Information Retrieval Community –> exchange of findings, knowledge + possible collaborations A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 57. What is the use?? Product Sounddesign Audio-Branding AUI (Auditory User Interfaces) Music Information Retrieval MIR (music catalogues, sound-databases) Mpeg7-Classification Electronic Music Distribution „Perceptual Software-Synthesizers“ ... A. Timbre: definition & properties B. Sound perception C. Study design
  • 58. wew Thank you!