A pre-recorded or simulated sound produced for a radio, television, film or theatrical program in order to suggest an actual sonic environment. The design of such sounds (often abbreviated as SFX), particularly when a complex acoustic environment is to be simulated, involves a thorough understanding of the structure of such a SOUNDSCAPE; that is, what sounds are representative and most significant, as well as which are necessary to create a given AMBIENCE and sense of ACOUSTIC SPACE.
Because the best sound effects are, like the cinematic music score, only subliminally perceived, an understanding of the audience's acquaintance with sounds - i.e. their skills and limitations in aural perception and cognition - is also of considerable importance.
A skillful sound effects producer or Foley artist can give the listener a vivid mental impression of a soundscape by carefully selecting and balancing only those sounds necessary to create the appropriate effect. To do this well means not only to know which sounds are prominent in the environment, but which are also prominent in the memory of those experiencing it, since a listener selects only certain sounds for long-term memory and rejects all others, even when they may be louder.
Compare: MUSIQUE CONCRETE, SOUND OBJECT, SOUND EVENT, SOUND ROMANCE, SOUNDSCAPE DESIGN, SOUND SIGNAL.
Ref.: Alan Edward Beeby, Sound Effects on Tape, London, 1966.