David Sound+: Effects

In this new guest blogging series “Sound +”, Laura Haapio-Kirk will discuss why sound is important and what it means to different professionals in various “sound-focused” industries. Today Laura explores the effects of sound on key aspects of human experience. Whether you are totally immersed in the heavy beats of a club or are experiencing traffic noise at a subconscious level, sound is affecting you every moment of every day.

How sound affects us is something that fascinates many people, from cognitive music researchers to musicians themselves who develop techniques to harness its emotional power. They all agree that the affective nature of sound is not to be taken for granted!

You may remember our ‘Why Sound?’ video from last year (selected as an official Webby Award Honoree!), when we caught up with sound experts Imogen Heap, Moby, Julian Treasure and others on the importance of sound. Well, here is another video treat on how sound affects our experiences of the environment, of ourselves and of each other as social beings. Enjoy!

Five women who know all about the unique power of the human voice are the Boxettes – a female a cappella group featuring world champion beatboxer Bellatrix (listen to the awesome ‘Free’ for a taste of their stuff). In the following track, Kate and Yvette talk about how the human voice is a connective tool and how certain sounds can soothe whilst others gross them out!

Finally, for a scientific take on the matter, here is professor Tuomas Eerola of the Music Cognition Team at Jyväskylä University, Finland. In this clip he discusses his research into how timbre affects the emotional quality of sound. His results indicate that if you want to make your audience feel tense use instruments like a reedy saxophone, and if you want to relax them do it with a harp!

We’re interested to hear what sounds have a particular effect on you!

Thank you to all the sound experts featured for their fantastic input, to filmmaker Erika Brouwer, and to Sebastian Nováky for the wonderful sounds accompanying the Boxettes clip!

Find Laura on SoundCloud, Tumblr and Twitter

  • Bitbin

    @bitbin: This @SoundCloud video contradicts itself on the effects sound has on us. #confusing http://t.co/acr2tk7t

  • Bitbin

    @bitbin: We either apply emotions to sound through cultural meanings and experiences or sound has meaning to begin with. I’m with the first.
    @bitbin: Remember sound is frequency. There is no emotion in that. Music only has emotion brought through the cultural references we apply to it.
    @bitbin: It is a simple misunderstanding that music has meaning in itself or is even a language. It does not and it is not.

  • Hi, thanks for your comment. I agree that cultural factors play a huge part in how we process sound and derive emotional qualities from it. I don’t think we can at this point say whether it is completely cultural or completely innate, but I think it’s a fascinating area for research so thanks for bringing up the debate.