SOUND-MEDIUM INTERFACE


All sonic phenomena involve the transfer of energy and information via processes which we are referring to here, in the broadest sense, as the sound-medium interface. Specifically, we are interested in the terms which describe the process of energy and information transfer, determine its characteristics, establish its limits and result in its implications. We have chosen five major types of energy and information transfers:

A) Acoustic: the physical transfer of energy from a vibrating object to the surrounding medium (called "acoustic radiation") and the physical transfer of acoustic energy in a medium (called "sound propagation").

B) Electroacoustic: the transfer of energy from an acoustic to an electrical form, (a process called "transduction") including various possible intermediate stages of electrical manipulation, storage and retrieval, as well as the re-conversion of the signal to an acoustic form.

C) Electromagnetic: the transfer of audio signals from transmitter to receiver via an electromagnetic wave, a process called "radio transmission".

D) Psychoacoustic: the processing of incoming sound waves by the auditory system to extract usable information for the brain, the process most commonly called "hearing".

E) Soundscape: the processing of information from the sonic environment to extract usable information for the brain which can influence human behaviour, the process most commonly called "listening".

In the original Handbook chart, a sixth term is given for the sound-medium interface in music, namely "performance", which in this context is thought of as the transfer of musical information from the composer to the listener usually via a human performer, but now also possible via loudspeaker systems. This topic is not illustrated here.


A) Acoustic: an important part of acoustics deals with the characteristics of energy-transfer (called "radiation") from a vibrating body to the surrounding medium, or from one medium to another, such as from the air to the ear canal. The emphasis is usually on the efficiency of energy transfer. In addition, we discuss some basic parameters of sound propagation through a medium; the influence of the environment on such propagation, however, will be discussed under Sound-Environment Interaction.

 
Acoustic Radiation
Propagation
Transmission
Geometric Spreading
Acoustic Impedance
Particle Velocity
Speed of Sound
Subsonic
Supersonic
Supersonic Transport
Sonic Boom
Doppler Effect
Resonance
Resonator
Resonance Curve
Helmholtz Resonator
Sympathetic Vibration
Soundboard
Eigenton
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B) Electroacoustic: there are three characteristic processes involved in electroacoustics, perhaps the most basic of which is the process of "transduction", that is, the conversion of acoustic energy to an equivalent electrical signal, and vice versa. Secondly, there are electrical devices which modify and manipulate such signals, and thirdly, devices which store and/or retrieve these signals. The actual devices involved are considered in a separate section of this document. In addition, digital recording and playback converts the audio signal to digital form and vice versa.

In addition, the field of electronic and computer music substitutes signal generation (sound synthesis) for the initial process of transduction from an original acoustic source. Here we present the terms which describe the essential characteristics of all of the electroacoustic transfer processes mentioned.

 
Signal
Transducer
Schizophonia
Quality
Fidelity
Background Noise
Signal-to-Noise Ratio
Response
Dynamic Range
Compression
Directivity
Frequency Response
Transient Response
Hi-Fi
Lo-Fi
Equalization
Presence
Distortion
Peak Clipping
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Feedback
Acoustic Feedback
Flutter
Wow
Rumble
Separation
Crosstalk
Print-through
Dropout
Spill
Channel
Monophonic
Stereophonic
Quadraphonic
Digital Recording


C) Electromagnetic: the transfer of an audio signal from a transmitter to a receiver, including its coding and decoding, via an electromagnetic wave has had a profound impact on communication in this century. The process is commonly called "radio transmission", and its details and variations are numerous. Here we present simply the basis of the process, common to all electromagnetic transmission. Keep in mind that the speed of the transmission is instantaneous, and the distances involved can be enormous.

 
Transmission (Radio)
Radio Spectrum
UHF
VHF
Receiver
Modulation
Carrier
Modulated Carrier
Demodulation
Heterodyne


D) Psychoacoustic: a great deal has been learned in this century about the behaviour of the human auditory system in the way it processes incoming sound waves and extracts usable information, The basic subjective concepts involved are:

a) "response" characteristics, that is, how the magnitude of the sensation caused by the stimulus relates to the physical magnitude of the stimulus;

b) the "threshold" of sensation;

c) the "just noticeable difference" in a certain parameter of the stimulus;

d) the "resolution" or "resolving power" of the system to separate simultaneous stimuli, or the way simultaneous stimuli cause a composite sensation;

e) how stimulus sensation changes over time.

 
Bone Conduction
Equal Loudness Contours
Differential Threshold
Critical Band
Threshold of Hearing
Threshold of Pain
Threshold Shift
Adaptation


E) Soundscape Studies: the basis of information transfer considered in soundscape studies is the process of listening. Listening is assumed here to include all aspects of how usable information is extracted from a complex array of environmental acoustic information, how it is classified, and how the information affects subsequent behaviour, including the listening process itself. Needless to say, not everything is known about this amazingly complex process. However, some useful terms and categories have been suggested by the research of the World Soundscape Project, many of which are related to, or at least are compatible with cognitive psychology. After some basic terms, we present those concerning:

a) categories of special sounds heard in the environment as reflected in listeners' use of the information contained in the sounds;

b) typical attitudes listeners have towards environmental sounds in recalling, accepting, rejecting, ignoring and adapting to sounds in the environment;

c) methods for documenting environmental sounds that reflect their functional importance and listeners' attitudes as mentioned.

 
Soundscape
Ear Cleaning
Clairaudience
Earwitness
Soundwalk
Hi-fi Environment
Lo-fi Environment
Keynote
Sound Signal
Soundmark
Sound Object
Sound Event
Sound Effect
Disappearing Sound
Soniferous Garden
Sacred Noise
Sound Phobia
Sound Romance
Sound Intrusion
Jet Pause

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