//Psicoacoustics: about physics of sound and cinematography

Psicoacoustics: about physics of sound and cinematography

When we talk about sound, it immediately comes to us everything that we percieve as part of our day to day life. Something so common that we tend to ignore how much it affects us in a daily basis

BY: Angel ThEs

Image by: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

“Psicoacoustics is the study of perception of sound, in other words, how the sense of hearing and the brain process information in the shape of sound”(Miyara, Federico: “Acústica y Sistemas de Sonido”. UNR Editora. Rosario, Argentina, 1999.
Robinson, D. W.; Dadson, R. S.: “A re-determination of the equal-loudness relations for pure tones” ).


Hearing is not only a physiological structure, it is also a psychological perception accompanied of emotions and stimuli which will be stored in our conscience to be remembered at the right moment.

We have noticed for example, how different media are reflected in a person’s memory (or in some cases, a character) like a lullaby or a mother singing; in this sense, the song brings to the spectator’s attention a very primitive and sensitive memory, which helps us understand the world around and find a solution to the conflict the narrative is presenting at that moment.

This is not just a narrative device. In reality we dont actually look back when we listen to a song, we won’t be taken back to the Good Times when we heard that song for the first time, but we do get a glimpse of the particular feeling from those moments. This is the reason why we find ourselves singing a particular melody, or why we we simply get a small mental image that can become an anecdote from another day.

Sound can be described as “mechanical vibration through an elastic medium”, it permeates our brain through a complicated translating mechanism, one type of energy to another, in this case, from acoustics to mechanics and then to bioelectricity.

But is more complicated than that.

We first went through a learning process, which takes no more than a couple of years, to be able to translate sound into things we can identify and respond to: from the sound of our own mother’s voice to the charismatic musical customs of our family.

In the movie industry, everything is studied and reproduced to generate emotions in the viewers. Emotions that will accompany the visual narrative from the imagination of screenwriters and directors. Although this is a long, complicated process, it is fundamental for cinematographic production.

We are sentient beings, we percieve reality through our senses and we process it through a personality and character forged through the years, this is where our difference in taste comes from, but the way we process information with our brain depends of to principles: the environment we grew up in, and the training we develip along the years. Could someone without any musical training appreciate a piece of classical music? Music from Bach? From Liszt or Mozart? The answer is probably yes, but maybe it could also come across as boring or tedious to the untrained ear.

Everyday however, we listen to musical pieces pretty much every day. In the movies we watch, in TV shows. These do not go unrecognized, that music is there for a reason and it’s a part of the sensory process as part of the audiovisual narrative. It goes through our eyes and ears and, in combination, develop the emotions the director meant to transmit. But the process has become so automatic, so mechanized that we require a good deal of training and habit modification to consciously realize that it’s there, and it’s making us feel.

Music, sound and our own sense of hearing are all part of our language, and language can be learned and used as a communication device. The way we percieve sound, the way our brain processes information and the way this is translated in a psychological level becomes part of who we are. Music is a language by itself, but this is a topic for another time.