Cross-modal soundscape mapping

Carter, Jeff
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Xiang, Ning
Krueger, Ted
Braasch, Jonas
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Architectural sciences
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We cannot `measure' the soundscape any more than we can `measure' the ocean, the city, or the wilderness. Being comprised of myriad complex elements, conditions and relationships between sound sources and sound perceivers, the soundscape--and any sufficient description of it--must account for several different, but significantly interrelated, dimensions: physical, spatial, temporal, perceptual, cultural, historical, political. How, then, are we to meaningfully document and discuss the soundscape? If we are to begin to understand the soundscape's impact on us--and our impact upon it--we need new methods to capture and represent the multisensory extents of a soundscape without reverting to specious one-dimensional quantitative metrics. Furthermore, the increasingly popular practice of conducting subject interviews in the field, while useful to some degree, also provides insufficient and unreliable data for archiving and representing a soundscape's complex characteristics. After reviewing the state of discourse on soundscape documentation, this project proposes a new interdisciplinary method to record a soundscape's multisensory attributes. While methods currently exist to photograph the complete visual field, as well as to record directional information within the complete aural field, no established method exists to combine them in a structured way which links the directionality of view and sound arrival. The environmental mapping method developed in this thesis project integrates multi-directional Ambisonic audio recordings with high dynamic range (HDR) spherical panoramic photography in the form of interactive PDF files. A case study of the forest soundscape of Peebles Island State Park--which exists within a mixed context of waterborne, industrial, and distant vehicular noise--is conducted to demonstrate the proposed method. The additional potential of reformatting the full-range audio-visual field recordings for immersive visualization and auralization projection systems is also discussed.
December 2014
School of Architecture
School of Architecture
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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