Sound Design

4.5 Psychoacoustic aspects

The use of remote frequency ranges (below 80 Hz and above 4,000 Hz) has been increasing since the late 1970s on the basis of both traditional, cultural factors of sound generation as well as psychoacoustic principles of auditory perception. Thus, depending on their rhythmic structure, base-heavy sound objects can have either a calming or a threatening effect, while those unnerving sound objects that correlate worldwide with sound phobias — such as the whizzing sound of the dentist’s drill or scratching the blackboard with a fingernail — reside in the higher frequency spectrum between 3,000 Hz and 5,000 Hz, to which the ear reacts in a particularly sensitive way. These sensory qualities have a directly affective effect.

By using excessive volume and the dissolution of filmic space through the surround method, the traditional altar function of film is being increasingly dismantled. Sensory strategies are taking its place, which are intended to overwhelm the recipient through a simple stimulus-reaction pattern by triggering direct vegetative reactions that cannot be controlled cognitively. Thomas Elsaesser coined the term ‘engulfment’ for such strategies of overpowering.[5] Excessive volume possesses a mythical dimension that can be traced back to the poles of cult and war, in which loud volume has exercised an important function for centuries. Exemplary for the use of the psychoacoustic dimension of sound is the opening sequence in Jurassic Park (US, 1993, directed by Steven Spielberg), in which the dynamics swell to a maximum level and the frequency response simultaneously shifts into the bass and treble area.


Timelines:ab 1970
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