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Free Content The Craftsman: The use of sound design to elicit emotions

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By looking at the relationship between audience emotions and a film’s soundtrack, this research started by asking the question ‘Are a listening-viewers Emotional Reactions to moving-picture sound design identifiable, predictable and repeatable?’. If so, can we pre-determine how an audience will react to audio stimuli, and, can we develop sound design techniques for triggering specific audience responses? This article proposes that within a film soundtrack, four distinct sound areas can be defined and described as the Logical, Abstract, Temporal and Spatial areas. The Logical Sound area is concerned with sound that carries direct communication and meaning. Dialogue and commentary are the most important examples of this area, which also includes symbolic and signalling sounds such as ring-tones, sirens, and other sounds and music with a clearly defined meaning. The Abstract Sound area is concerned with sounds that have a less codified and clear meaning. Atmospheres, backgrounds, room tones, sound effects and music are examples of these. The Temporal Sound area is concerned with the evolution in time of the sound design. Its characteristics are rhythm, pace and punctuation. This area can include music, sound effects and voice. The Spatial Sound area is concerned with the positioning of sounds within a three-dimensional soundfield. We propose that the definition of these areas provides a useful framework for sound designers and academics to devise and analyse how emotions can be elicited through sound design.
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Keywords: abstract sound; film sound; logical sound; sound areas; sound design; sound emotion; spatial sound; temporal sound

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of York

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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  • The Soundtrack is a multi-disciplinary journal which brings together research in the area of music and sound in relation to film and other moving image media. A complex cultural, technological, industrial and artistic phenomenon, sound-with-moving image is a rich area for analysis, investigation and speculation. We encourage writing that is accessible to audiences from a diversity of intellectual backgrounds and disciplines as well as providing a forum for practitioners. The Soundtrack's aim is to nurture this new and expanding area of academic investigation in dialogue with soundtrack producers of all kinds.
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