Mark Grimshaw: Rethinking Sound

Mark Grimshaw from Aalborg University, Denmark gave the lecture yesterday (May 26th) on  Rethinking Sound. (See video of talk here.)

Grimshaw has been interested in game sound for some time and how sound helps create an immersive experience. He is also interested in how games sonify others in a multi-player game (how you hear others). He is also interested in virtual reality and how sound can be used to give verisimilitude.

Why rethink sound? He started by discussing problems with definitions of sound and trying to redefine sound to understand sonic virtuality. The standard definition is that sound is a sound wave. The problem is that there are really two definitions:

  • sound is an oscillation of pressure or sound wave, or
  • sound is an auditory sensation produced by such waves (both from the ANSI documentation)

He mentioned another definition that I rather liked, that sound is “a mechanical disturbance in the medium.” This is from an acoustics textbook: Howard, D. M., & Angus, J. (1996). Acoustics and psychoacoustics. Oxford: Focal Press.

Not all sounds produce an auditory sensation (like ultrasound) and not all sensations are created by sound waves (eg. tinnitus). For that matter, sound also gets defined as that which happens in the brain. The paradox is:

  • Not all sounds evoke a sound, and
  • Not all sounds are evoked by sound.

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