AES Journal Forum

Disembodied Timbres: A Study on Semantically Prompted FM Synthesis

Document Thumbnail

Disembodied electronic sounds constitute a large part of the modern auditory lexicon, but research into timbre perception has focused mostly on the tones of conventional acoustic musical instruments. It is unclear whether insights from these studies generalize to electronic sounds, nor is it obvious how these relate to the creation of such sounds. This work presents an experiment on the semantic associations of sounds produced by FM synthesis with the aim of identifying whether existing models of timbre semantics are appropriate for such sounds. A novel experimental paradigm, in which experienced sound designers responded to semantic prompts by programming a synthesizer, was applied, and semantic ratings on the sounds they created were provided. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a five-dimensional semantic space. The first two factors mapped well to the concepts of luminance, texture, and mass. The remaining three factors did not have clear parallels, but correlation analysis with acoustic descriptors suggested an acoustical relationship to luminance and texture. The results suggest that further inquiry into the timbres of disembodied electronic sounds, their synthesis, and their semantic associations would be worthwhile and that this could benefit research into auditory perception and cognition and synthesis control and audio engineering.

Open Access


JAES Volume 70 Issue 5 pp. 373-391; May 2022
Publication Date:

Download Now (615 KB)

This paper is Open Access which means you can download it for free.

No AES members have commented on this paper yet.

Subscribe to this discussion

RSS Feed To be notified of new comments on this paper you can subscribe to this RSS feed. Forum users should login to see additional options.

Start a discussion!

If you would like to start a discussion about this paper and are an AES member then you can login here:

If you are not yet an AES member and have something important to say about this paper then we urge you to join the AES today and make your voice heard. You can join online today by clicking here.

AES - Audio Engineering Society