Life is made meaningful through the five senses present in human beings. The experiences that people go through are facilitated through the senses that enable people to decipher the messages contained in the sounds that they hear.
Seeing and hearing are touted as the most fundamental and can only be compared to food and water, the most basic human need. Of the two hearing is touted as bearing the biggest responsibility in determining the character of human beings.
Scholars have argued over the supremacy of the two higher senses. Often, hearing comes over sight. That is not to say that sight is important. However, the sonic impressions created by hearing do to a greater extent help in determining visual impressions that are created by sight.
According to Pallasmaa, sound incorporates while sight isolates. This is a tribute to the unifying nature that sound has among human beings. The interpretations that sound is subjected to are less likely to be subjective compared to the interpretations sight impressions are subjected to (20).
Pallasmaa adds that sight represents exteriority while on the other hand, sound and hearing displays omni-directional qualities as well as interiority. Sound approaches and receives while eyes reach on to something (21).
Some scholars even argue that it’s possible to lead an almost normal life even after losing the sense of sight. Through encholation, blind people easily find their way through many places, be it in a forest or a large town. Sounds, together with images have been developed and they form the basis of the creative arts sector in many countries.
Just as hearing comes top among the senses, music is ranked above all other arts. Art uses both visual and sound impressions. However, sound has proven to be more powerful over visual images in the world of art. From birth, human beings use sound qualities and later on during gradual maturity use the expressive qualities found in speech and music to familiarize themselves with the qualities of life. The invaluable experiences offered by music and other sound qualities help in human development and self-discovery through communication.
In the long history of human development , one of the most important factors that has characterized that development is the concept of sound. Is has been one of the crucial deciding factors in the development and advancement of society as well as its sustenance in the dynamic world.
Many cultures including Indian and Vedic have myths that seek to explain the mysterious nature of sound. These myths explore the existence of the soul before the existence of the earth and how sound developed after the universe came to exists. In Indian culture, for instance sound was regarded highly that it is classified as one of the characteristics of ether, one of the elements of nature. They ancient Indians believed that sound pervaded everything.
The existence of sound in the world is crucial to the creation of perception and presence that determine the shape of the world. Sound according to Thompson creates perception, emotional, spiritual, and psychological spaces (50). Through the above elements, understanding within ourselves, the environment and between human beings is enhanced. Communication too is enhanced through sound and
Perhaps the most important role that sound plays in the development of human beings as well as the day-to-day lives is the nurturing of emotion. Through sound, human beings are able to learn and feel emotions while attaching meaning to them. Emotions help transform human beings to social beings capable of feeling.
After learning emotions, human beings use the sonic arts to communicate the emotions to fellow human beings in their quest to have corresponding real life experiences. On this point a lone, hearing underscores its importance and perhaps serves to prove its superiority over sight.
An emotional being through socialization is transformed to a social being. The preservation of quality sounds reinforces sound integrity to ensure human beings get the best of the sounds that we use and those that we get through music and other sonic arts. The social being is developed through the sounds he/ she hears.
It’s important to note that there exists a wide variety of sounds that help human beings to develop full social beings. It’s also important to add that it helps when human beings are exposed to various sounds because it helps the above said development.
To ensure that quality sound is made and is available for human social development, recording was introduced. Recording was a big step in the development and storage of music and quality sounds that help human beings develop. However, they have been subjected to various limitations that somehow diminish the importance of sound in human life.
Sound and space
According to LaBelle and Roden sound cannot exists on its own without space (34). Additionally for sound to exist, it needs architecture and sight. The examination of the relationship between sound and space was first mooted by the ancient Greeks. The experiments conducted by the Greeks sought to investigate the behaviors of sound in different space settings.
The unique behaviors that sound exhibited in these different space settings was the main content of the investigations they carried. These early researchers came up with the premise that the relationship between sound and space was utterly dependent on architecture.
This relationship was vividly captured in the ideas and works of Vitruvius when he sought to control sound in theatres. A concrete conclusion that was reached by these researchers was that sound and music had an explicit linkage to architecture underlain through the harmony of the universe.
Sound and space could not be understood without the use of architecture that was crucial in developing harmonic properties of sound as well as the mathematical impressions of sound and music. All the above was necessary because it necessitated the consideration of acoustic perspectives in designing ancient theatres.
The ancient researchers also did conclude that site and sound existed simultaneously and that the relationship could be examined through the listening experience. Their joint existence can fall within the social presence context or private experience context.
In terms of acoustics and resonance, site and sound do determine their development where one of them is characterized as a receiver while the other is characterized as a transmitter. The above explanation by the Greek researchers of sound and space concluded that space is crucial in the controlling, deadening, reflection, and destruction of sound.
There is a lot of architecture that goes to designing and developing areas where people live for instance in cities and quiet parks. That therefore means there can be a deliberate generation of sound to alter space. Similarly, one can shape space to manipulate sound to a negative or positive effect instead of reducing or deadening or eliminating it.
Besides the perception capabilities that human beings display toward sound, they can also create and destroy both sound and space. When designing space, architects are mostly concerned about the acoustic factors that will affect the spaces they design.
One of the concepts that come out prominently in the relationship between sound and space is acoustics. According to Ripley et al, every room has a sound. In any room, sound waves experience reflection, absorption, and dispersion (45). This is done by the boundaries the physical contents like furniture and the people present.
It’s important to note that different rooms have different sounding formats. The sounding is determined by the size, geometry and the materials that are used. More importantly, their acoustic behavior is more critical to the sounding of the room.
A good understanding of the dynamics involved in acoustics will help shed some light on the concept and help in explaining the effect of human beings on space and sound.
Size, geometry, diffusion, and absorption describe acoustics in the most basic terms. Acoustics is all about eliminating resonances by ensuring reflections of sound disappear through absorption and diffusion.
In their quest to improve sound quality, acousticians try to modify rooms through architectural designs that greatly alter sound in rooms especially theatres to fit the purpose. However, it is imperative to highlight that the sound source is also a factor in determining the quality of the sound experiences in a room.
More often than not, acoustic engineers and architects try to dampen the rooms in order to improve the sound of the reflection. Sometimes it is successful while at times it flops badly. Sound quality in a room is mainly determined by the material used. Every material possesses a vibration character. This is more critical in the reflection of sound waves, perhaps more critical than the absorption and dispersion coefficients.
To achieve the best reflection, engineers struggle to match the mother of tone to the character of the reflecting material. The mother of tone is ideal because it is the same benchmark that is used by the human body in its regulation of vibration of ears and generally, bodies. It’s against these that all sounds that are meant for any human beings are evaluated.
Resonant frequencies are mainly affected by the size of the room. These cavity models of the room signify that a few of frequencies will be higher or louder than all other frequencies available. For instance a sub hoofer that normally has low frequencies is designed to activate and excite the cavity modes present in rooms. The cavity modes or frequencies of a room can only be changed through alteration of the size or its volume that is more or less the size.
Direction of sound reflections in a room is determined by the geometry of the room. On the other hand, the geometry of the room is determined by the angles and the positioning of the walls as well as the floor, ceiling, furniture and any other physical object in the room. Any new entry into a room changes the acoustics of that particular room. It is important to note that the commonest reflection happens between parallel rather than perpendicular walls.
The materials that make up the walls, ceiling, and floor of the room as well as the materials of the furniture and any other physical objects greatly determine the acoustics. Understanding into these individual material properties will need a macro understanding of the individual materials on the physical features of a room.
Concisely, the acoustic properties of a material in aroom are determined through the amount of sound that is reflected by that particular object. The amount of sound is determined by the absorption coefficient. Also determining the acoustic properties of a material is the direction the reflection takes which is determined by the dispersion or diffusion coefficient.
The physical objects that are capable of creating and sometimes destroying sound and the acoustic energy that fills the air are some of the major aspects of sound. Both scientific and aesthetic ways, the relationship with the environment and the circumstances that surround someone determine who gets to hear what.
Perhaps the relationship between space and sound is better captured through the demonstration of an empty house and that is already furnished.
An empty house demonstrates acoustic harshness that is not pleasant to the ear at all. Sound in occupied houses is more soft and accommodating than the former. The different surfaces from different objects that are present in the house help in the refraction and softening of the sound giving a soothing acoustic.
According to Pallasmaa, different spaces and buildings display varied characteristics of attractiveness, feelings, intimacy, monumentality, harshness, invitation, or rejection (58). The above characteristics signify either hospitality or rejection.
People and sound in a space
The human effect on sound and space is mainly captured through the architectural element that is directly related to sound and space. People have come up with designs that manipulate sound to achieve the sound qualities that they want.
For instance, different city echoes are determined by the shape of the streets as dictated by the architectural styles and materials. Thompson notes that many cities nowadays have lost the echo touch that ancient cities used to have (78).
Contemporary streets cannot return the echo because the interiors have been designed to censure and absorb sound. The acoustic volume of space has been eliminated over time through the programmed recorded designs that dominate the sound industry. Heavy urban traffic characteristic of the cities nowadays and the varying open spaces wildly affect sound quality.
The creation of Symphony Hall marked the beginning of an acoustic era dominated by technology. This technology enabled architects and acousticians to have greater control of over sound. The Symphony hall is still regarded as the first ever, modern science inspired creation that clearly captured the effect of human beings and space on sound.
One critical factor that comes up in the human effect on sound on space and the incorporation of architecture into the study and understanding of sound is the materiality of the objects use. Reverberation is determined by the frequency dependency of the powers of sound absorbing by the materials used in architecture. Within the materiality concept, the barriers that aid in minimizing noise pollution in building and construction came up.
According to Wade, human beings have largely been responsible for the manipulation of architecture and space in the cities to introduce a completely new concept of soundscape (56). The use of space has ensured the resonation of the cities, echoing, muffling, and the isolation of all the urban sounds creating a new dimension of soundscape.
Urban designers and planners have responded by planning every building in the cities in specialized and differentiated ways. Determination of the openness of the streets, planting of trees and the specification of materials for different surfaces has been carefully considered in the use of space to control sound.
Due to the relative easiness through which architects can make predictions on the reverberations, the acoustics of the inside of buildings have been easily controlled and their spaces only reflect the acoustic qualities that their owners prefer.
Wade says that human beings are perceptive creatures as well as active creators of sound and space. The acoustic space that is designed by architects is the primary concern when designing structures. Human beings are increasingly capable of manipulating the soundscapes of buildings through advanced architectural designs.
In this advanced manipulation of sound contexts, architects have sought to understand the effect of spatial sound. With the advancement in technology brought about by the industrial revolution, people started modifying and measuring sound.
Scientific study of sound enabled acoustic engineers and acousticians to manipulate microphones and amplifiers and loudspeakers together with the electrical signals that sound devices used. The discovery of sound production through electronics redefined acoustical phenomena using electronics rather than architecture. Acousticians could easily study and understand the behaviors of sound thanks to the advanced technology.
According to Labelle and Roden, the sounds that are present today are because of technological mediation that is as a direct result of the manipulation by engineers and architects.
Control of the behaviors of sound is no longer the mystery it used to be. Many more materials used in the generation of sound have been developed together with numerous electro-acoustics devices that have helped greatly in the understanding of acoustics.
The development of the electro-acoustics and other techniques of manipulating sound have led to the production of both intended and unintended consequences. These noises include radio broadcasts, music concepts, and motion pictures with soundtracks that have become popular with people.
Its important to note that it is the need to control sound behavior and a culture for listening that have driven both the architectural and technological developments in acoustics.
New worries about noise that is as a direct result of human being manipulation of the sound space led to the desire by acousticians to control the sound in specific rooms where performances were held and that were important in producing acoustically correct music. Furthermore, the desire to eliminate all uncenecssary sound was informed by the need to achieve efficiency in acoustics.
According to Ripley et al control of acoustics by architects and engineers was seen as away of enabling these musicians exercise choice in a world filled with all kind of aural commodities (89). This developments helped producers and other acoustically interested people to determine what constitutes good and acceptable sound and to determine how and what it took to achieve it.
The gradual development of the relationship between sound and space led to the reformation of the principles that define it. There was gradual dissociation of sound from space to an extent the relationship became non-existent. The development of sound absorbing structures and the instruments that produced their own authentic acoustic sounds diminished the relationship between sound and space.
It is safe to conclude that the architectural bit has became a little differentiated and now concentrated on the development of either good structures or instruments that produce acoustic sounds according to the preference of the listeners. Reverberation was a direct creation of architecture that necessitated its creation. It was always a function of the room size, geometry and the materials of the surfaces of the objects in the room.
These factors together controlled the production of acoustic sound for long periods. It is therefore with relief that products that can produce acoustic sounds can be made and reverberation is just a form of noise that does not need to be controlled to produce acoustic sound.
Though significantly diminished, sound and space still have a long relationship. Modern science has helped acousticians to achieve a distinct sound without much input from architecture. Architecture now is concerned more with reality than abstraction. It is now an important factor in the development of other fields like politics and social development.
Distraction will always exist in the world given the different preference and nature of the sound producing objects that inhabit the earth. However, it is safe to conclude that harmony has been achieved through the development of electro acoustic instruments and the reduction of the dependence of acoustics on architecture.
The dissociation of sound and space has been achieved only to some extent. Many musicians and artists’ sounds still are dictated by the architecture of the places where they perform. The influence that an artist puts on space determines to a great extent the type of sound that is produced. Artists nowadays have focused on the manipulation of sound through architecture only for recording purposes.
On the same note its will be absurd to generally say that other sounds that are produced on earth are not worth listening. Besides acoustic sound, other sounds can be harnessed to produce aesthetic plays that are pleasant to the ear.
LaBelle, Brandon and Roden, Steve. Site of sound: of architecture and the ear, Volume 1. London: Errant Bodies Press, 1999. Print.
Pallasmaa, Juhani. The eyes of the skin: architecture and the senses. New York: Wiley-Academy, 2005. Print.
Ripley et al. In the place of sound: architecture, music, and acoustics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print
Thompson, Emily. The Soundscape of Modernity. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2004. Print.
Wade, Bonnie. Imaging sound: an ethno musicological study of music, art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.