Adding Ambient Sound

Adding sound back into the environment of which is being monitored has been one of the intentions from the start of the project. It started with the idea of replaying music in relation to time & emotion but the development taking music out of the equation and introducing the idea of ambient noise in the same way.

Introducing more noise into the environment could cause some problems in relation to looping. The sound of the ambient music could be picked up by the microphone creating a looping cycle of noise. It needs to be considered that the volume of the sound playback so it doesn’t effect the environment itself.

Feedback loop: occurs when the sound from the speakers makes it back into the microphone and is re-amplified and sent through the speakers again

The sounds being played back are going to represent that of a similar level of sound in a different location. Sound levels of other environments or products need to be accurate to describe that of the adjacent environment. Another consideration is deciphering the upper and lower boundaries of noise. This could be done by using the high noise of the foyer to that of a high noise environment visa versa. e.g when its extremely noise for the foyer, industrial noise are played or at low noise level, calm and tranquil noises are played.

This table below displays that of equal noise to decibel level

Noise Source Decibel Level Decibel Effect
Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB);power mower (96 dB) 90 4 times as loud as 70 dB.Likely damage 8 hr exp
Garbage disposal, dishwasher, average factory, freight train (at 15 meters).Car wash at 20 ft (89 dB);Food blender (88 dB); 80 2 times as loud as 70 dB.Possible damage in 8 hr exposure.
Passenger car at 65 mph at 25 ft (77 dB);Living room music (76 dB);radio or TV-audio, vacuum cleaner (70 dB). 70 Arbitrary base of comparison.Upper 70s are annoyingly loud to some people.
Conversation in restaurant, office,background music,Air conditioning unit at 100 ft 60 Half as loud as 70 dB. Fairly quiet
Quiet suburb, conversation at home.Large electrical transformers at 100 ft 50 One-fourth as loud as 70 dB.
Library, bird calls (44 dB);lowest limit of urban ambient sound 40 One-eighth as loud as 70 dB.
Quiet rural area 30 One-sixteenth as loud as 70 dB. Very Quiet

Using this within the design of the graphics and a combination of Infograic design thinking added great meaning to the visualizer’s purpose. This addition of a audio in connection the visuals furthers the ambient feeling of the piece and creating a sense of realisation for audiences.

Here shows how the scale was tested in relation to different sound brackets

Play back of audio has to this point been deciphered by INT(whole value) variable of which could specify file however, the input audio is of several digits( float 0.88493) and needs to be set boundaries. Minim also can play several songs through a single Audio Player, which we don’t want this to do as to many sounds would be playing at the same time. Creating a system of selection, which waits for a file to stop playing before selecting and playing the next.


float v1 = 0;
float v2 = 5;
float v3 = 10;
float v4 = 20;
boolean next = false;
float m = 0;
int file = 2;
void selection(){
  if (next == false){
    player1 = minim.loadFile(str(file)+"/"+str(int(random(1,5)))+".mp3", bufferSize);;
    next = true;
for(int i = 0; i < in.bufferSize() - 1; i++) {
    if ( abs(in.mix.get(i)) > m ) {
      m = abs(in.mix.get(i)*100);
      if ((m > v1) && (m < v2)){
          file = 1;
        if ((m > v2) && (m < v3)){
          file = 2;        
       if ((m > v3) && (m < v4)){
          file = 3; 
       if (m > v4){
         file = 4;
    if (!player1.isPlaying()) {
      next = false;

By using a series of if statements, variables and booleans a setup which…

  1. Start with file 1
  2. Wait for the file to finish
  3. Check the ambient sound
  4. Decided what range of sound that within
  5. Play a file in relation to that sound
  6. Back to 2

Using this will allow a different sound based on the input sound level to be selected each time. The sounds will be related to the noise level in the environment and describe that. Some further consideration needs to be given to possibility of a feed back loop and how this can be counteracted.


Update: Live Test

Temple University Department of Civil/Environmental Engineering (, and Federal Agency Review of Selected Airport Noise Analysis Issues, Federal Interagency Committee on Noise (August 1992). Source of the information is attributed to Outdoor Noise and the Metropolitan Environment, M.C. Branch et al., Department of City Planning, City of Los Angeles, 1970.


Leave a Reply