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  • Audio Anecdotes: Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Digital Audio
  • Ian Whalley
Ken Greenebaum and Ronen Barzel (Editors): Audio Anecdotes: Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Digital Audio. Hardcover, 2004, ISBN 1-56881-104-7, 512 pages, glossary, contributor biographies, US$89; CD-ROM with sound and video files, executable demos; available from A.K. Peters, Ltd., 888 Worcester Street, Suite 230, Wellesley, Massachusetts 02482, USA; telephone (+1) 781-416-2888; fax (+1) 781-416-2889; Web

Audio Anecdotes is the first in a series of three books covering creating, recording, processing, and analyzing sound and music, also touching on the opportunities presented by digital media and computing. This first book divides into eight chapters and twenty-five essays addressing measurement, perception, recording, synthesis, signal processing, computer techniques, computer tools, and human experience. Co-editor Ken Greenebaum notes that after being frustrated and disappointed with the lack of resources available to understand digital (and previously analog) media, his intention was "to create the book I wished for then and that I still want today" (p. xi). The editors note that "articles take a variety of forms: introductions, essays, in-depth technical explorations, presentations of tools and techniques, and post-mortem analysis" (p. xiv). With the variety of authors that have contributed, particularly those coming from beyond the academy and those drawing on personal experience, readers are encouraged to learn about the contributors' backgrounds before reading each section.

The book's structure, intended as an "arc" (p. xv), assumes that to understand the area one has to first have an understanding of the basic physics and human perception of it. Of course, this is only the first volume in the series, so it would be difficult to include everything from the range of possibilities within this sole offering.

Chapter one focuses on "Measurement." In "Sound Pressure Levels; Mine Goes to 11!," Ken Greenebaum opens the book with a well written introduction to measuring sound pressure levels. Like the remainder of the essays, this is followed by an annotated reference list. This is an excellent way to navigate through further readings, what the readings cover, and something about the quality of each. Hesham Fouad then offers "Understanding the Decibel," a largely mathematical outline of measuring a sound's level, and why we use the algorithmic scale for this. Mr. Greenebaum concludes the chapter with the third essay titled "Sound Propagation," a brief introduction to the physics of sound: what it is, what causes it, sound propagation, travel, and attenuation. Again this is a low-key introduction to the area, with a good balance of technical and accessible information. As the departure point for the "arc," the chapter sets up the anticipation of where reception, and art in a general sense, might fit in with the approach taken.

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The second chapter is titled "Perception," to address the contention that "one must explore the human perception of sound to understand the trade-offs and implications inherent in any media" (p. xvi). The terrain covered explores the "perceptual organization of sound, latency in the perception of sound, and the psychophysics of hearing" (p. xvi). Albert Bregman and WieslawWoszczyk begin with "Controlling the Perceptual Organization of Sound: Guidelines Derived from Principles of Auditory Scene Analysis (ASA)." This is an extensive introduction to the area, with solid examples on the CD-ROM and an extended annotated bibliography. Mr. Greenebaum returns with Derek DiFilippo in "Perceivable Audio Latencies," looking at perceptual detectible levels of latency for a range of interactions, again linked to good examples on the CD-ROM. The final essay is by the same authors titled "Introduction to the Theory of Signal Detection: Measuring Human Response." The approach, grounded in personal experience, is refreshing in context. The chapter is a gentle introduction to the topic, pulling together a significant body of work. The first two chapters then provide a firm foundation to launch from, covering technical details in an engaging manner that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. [End Page 76]

Chapter 3 provides a logical next step with a focus on "Recording." The path tread here is likely to be similar to many...


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pp. 76-78
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