One man's sonata is another man's noise. But I was reading an article today titled The Worst Noises in the World which reported on a recent neuroscience study investigating the interaction between the auditory cortex and the amygdala when a subject is exposed to "pleasant" and "unpleasant" sounds. The amygdala is a section of the brain that handles emotional response. There are a few interesting notes that the article states, but one stuck out to me.
Analysis of the acoustic features of the sounds found that anything in the frequency range of around 2,000 to 5,000 Hz was found to be unpleasant.
I find it to be a very broad and misleading statement. Perhaps they are speaking of sounds which have their fundamental frequency fall in that range? But I also believe that other factors, like timbre, rhythm, duration & intensity, can influence the "unpleasantness" of a particular sound.
For those who don't want to click through, here's what they found:
Most Unpleasant Sounds
Rating 74 sounds, people found the most unpleasant noises to be
- Knife on a bottle
- Fork on a glass
- Chalk on a blackboard
- Ruler on a bottle
- Nails on a blackboard
- Female scream
- Brakes on a cycle squealing
- Baby crying
- Electric drill
Least Unpleasant Sounds
- Baby laughing
- Water flowing
I found the list of unpleasant sounds familiar to the answers regarding this question about tension (a potentially unpleasant state). But also find it odd that the "least unpleasant" sounds all can/do occupy this same "unpleasant frequency range."
Regardless, this stirred a question in me. Since it's fright month and there are a lot of horror/ghost/paranormal stories going around, what do you find to be an "unpleasant" sound and how does this influence your design / mix? What aspects do you pay mind to when crossing the thresholds between "uneasy" to "scary" and how do you avoid going too far into "unpleasant", or even "TURN IT OFF!!!"?