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The onset of sound


Why would we single out the properties of the onset of a sound, its attack, as being any different to those that follows?

(…) In most naturally occurring sounds the onset gives us some clue as to the causality of the sound – what source is producing it, how much energy was expended in producing it, where it’s coming from. Of course, we can pick up some of this information from later moments in the sound, but such information has a primitive and potentially life-threatening importance in the species development of hearing. After all, hearing did not develop to allow us to compose music, but to better help us to survive. We are therefore particularly sensitive to the qualities of sound onset – at some stage in the past our ancestors lives may have depended on the correct interpretation of that data.


Trevor Wishart (1994): Audible design. A plain
and easy introduction to practical sound composition.
Orpheus the Pantomime Ltd. Page 44.


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