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sound art

Remembering the future of reading

“The Commonwealth of the Future”

illustrations by Albert Robida (The End of Books by Octave Uzanne, 1894) | photo by José Tomé & tangiblemode | design by tangiblemode

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The 3Dness of words

Photo: Gerardo Garcia for tangiblemode

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Who has ever really listened to a word?

When it comes to listening to words, ears commonly tend to focus on a limited range of decoding processes. From meaning to subliminal tone and intensity clues, most of the cognitive effort goes into ‘understanding’ the speaker. From a broader aural point of view, that’s quite a poor listening, even for a single spoken word. Spoken words are not just symbols –such as those flat, typed words on a screen or on paper– but real things, physical objects, living events in our 3-dimensional world.

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© keko64 / 123RF Stock Photo

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By REAL ACOUSTICS or binaural sound here, we mean sound via dummy-head, either live or recorded. This technique involves placing two microphones inside a dummy-head at the ear-drums. Someone listening back on earphones is then wrapped in the same sound scene the dummy-head experiences.

When we say ʻthe same sound sceneʼ, there are a few mitigating factors that may reduce the effectiveness of this filtering, where the listenerʼs perceived 3D-ness may be less convincing. Different ears, for one. A lot of research has been done regarding size and shape of the outer-ear and many virtual acoustic applications offer a range of different ears or ʻHead Related Transfer Functionsʼ (HRTFs) to choose from. Some also address head-size, some even hair length.

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