I Does DAT

The Official Project Abstract
May 10, 2007, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Major Project

Research and evolving technology are allowing a new breed of sound design to develop. This involves sounds, both within and beyond the range of human auditory perception, that can affect our physiology.

Below the range is infrasound, a type of sound we cannot hear, but feel. It can be found in many situations such as seismic activity, running engines, and even some animal noises, and is being researched for such applications as non-lethal military and policing weapons. Infrasound is known to cause physiological effects including dizziness, tension, nausea and even hallucinations. In some cases, it has been attributed as the cause of the uneasiness experienced in supposedly haunted locations.

Sounds within our hearing range can also have an effect on the human physiology. There have been reports that sounds between 20Hz and 140Hz can aid bone growth and the healing of fractures and it has been suggested that cats purr primarily for this reason (their purr resonates at 25Hz or 50Hz and occurs when they are injured or close to death).

It is also claimed that binaural beats, which occur when either ear is presented with slightly differing frequencies, can synchronise brainwaves, inducing a state of apparent intoxication without the damaging chemical effects of drugs. These are already being used recreationally and are potentially a useful tool in drug rehabilitation.

This auditory experience shows the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of these developing techniques, using pre-existing sounds from each field of research. It allows you to explore an interactive soundscape of noises that will become integrated into the soundscape of our society as the technology improves and sound design becomes reintegrated with visual design at a level that hasn’t been commonplace since the Industrial Revolution.

March 6, 2007, 11:35 am
Filed under: Major Project

Instead of speakers I’m going to use headphones in the experience to make it more immersive as there will be no outside noise. The best way to do this will be to use wireless headphones (something like this – not sure if bluetooth is the best technology to use though). The ones on the market come with their own dedicated transmitter and I don’t have the money to buy or the expertise to create a load of extra transmitters so I will have to control the sounds from one central source and use sensors to detect the location of the person in the room. I will look into what kind of sensors but I assume either motion or pressure pads on the floor. Motion would be better really as I want the floor to feel normal, infra-red beams could work but I’d ideally like the room to be divided into segments. If possible I’d even like to have these segments overlap so that as you move between them the sounds overlap. I think this is completely possible to do in software, most likely MAX/MSP. So the application is going to be more integral than I thought but that’s fine and should actually make the whole thing a bit smoother, I just need to develop it further.

I also like the idea of the room being dark. This should make the ‘user’ concentrate more on the sound and not be affected by what they see. I’ll need to make the room injury-proof though.

Project Update
February 16, 2007, 2:12 am
Filed under: Major Project

I’m currently conducting experiments to discover the best environment for my installation and also the sounds which are most effective at provoking a response. The idea now is to set up a room playing sound that alters our behaviour or response in some way. These sounds should be ‘found’ in that they already exist for the purpose of behavioural response and have not been created or doctored by me.

At the moment I’m working with sounds from i-Doser to see if I can vaguely control a person’s movement through the space by altering their mood. Of course, these sounds are intended to be heard in complete isolation for a certain amount of time – 15 minutes, for instance – but I’m interested in discovering whether people will tend towards the more positive sounds or not and using this evidence to design my final piece.

Some quotes about sound
November 2, 2006, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Major Project

I’m currently reading a book called ‘An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing: Fourth Edition’ by Brian C.J. Moore. I’m still on the first of 9 chapters, which is about the nature of sound and te structure and function of the auditory system.

I’ve got a couple of quotes that may or may not be useful for potential experiments that I might carry out.

“In fact the average human absolute threshold at 1000Hz is about 6.5dB SPL (when listening with one ear). Sometimes it is convenient to choose as a reference level the threshold of a subject for the sound being used. A sound level specified in this way is referred to as a sensation level (SL). Thus, for a given subject, as sound at 60dB SL will be 60dB above the absolute threshold of that subject for that sound.”

“White noise has a uniform spectrum level. Another type of noise that is sometimes used in auditory research is called pink noise. This has a spectrum level that decreases by 3dB (corresponding to a halving of noise power density) for each doubling in frequency.”

This is from a book, as I said, so if somebody involved with the book wants these quotes removed then please email me and I’ll do it immediately.

Hearing and seeing patterns
November 2, 2006, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Dissertation, Major Project, Sound Practice

It seems quite irrelavant to anything I’m working on really but I thought it was interesting: apparently it’s easier to hear patterns in protein strands by assigning musical notes to individual amino acids than it is to see them in a visual list. This seems pretty simple and obvious to me, although a good idea from these scientists that I wouldn’t have thought of.

Incidentally, this is one my the best blogs I’ve found for little nuggets of research. There are often some interesting articles popping up there and a lot of them are relevant, especially when they’re technology related, so I recommend you take a gander.

Max/MSP and Pure Data
October 31, 2006, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Major Project, Production of Space, Sound Practice

Throughout the year I forsee myself doing a lot of work with a very powerful piece of software called Max/MSP. In the 2nd year I created a negotiated project which was an interactive sound app and was tipped off about this software as an ideal route so I had a play with it and found it to be a style of programming (patch programming) that, on a basic level, I took to fairly well. However, this meant that my 30-day trial was used up back then and, not knowing how much I’d want to use it in the future, decided to have a go at the open source equivalent, Pure Data (pd).

Since I got to grips with this, and since it has its own advantages over Max, I intend to immerse myself in pd and use that instead. Any tips will be greatly appreciated, particularly if they help with the projects mentioned anywhere on this blog.

i-Doser: The not so shady world of sound drugs
October 27, 2006, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Dissertation, Major Project, Sound Practice

During a conversation with a friend the other day, i-Doser was brought to my attention. This is a website from which you pay for a ‘dose’ of sound which is designed to make you feel a certain way. Once the sound has finished playing, it destroys itself and you can buy another dose.

There are a whole range of doses available which the creators claim can emulate, mostly recreational, drugs from anti-depressants and coffee to cocaine and out-of-body experiences. They do this using binaural beats to stimulate the same parts of the brain as the drug itself, supposedly giving you the sensation of the drug without any of the harmful chemical side effects.

I found the whole thing very interesting, especially considering the subject of my dissertation. I’ve tried a couple of doses myself without too much effect but I believe it works and I’ll persevere. Give it a go – you get some free doses to try when you download the program.