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Sound Designer, Freelance / Self-employed -Media/Entertaiment

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Why is loudness so attractive?

Hello my fellow TEDians.

I am currently writing a short paper on the very controversial "loudness wars" in the media, particularly the games industry and I would like to hear others people's opinions on a simple question.

"Why is loudness so attractive?"

As I've been researching, all the evidence seems to point towards companies boosting the levels in their commercials, music or film by using hyper-compression to basically grab peoples attention.

But I haven't been able to find a good explanation on why loudness is so attractive? Is it just because it stands out? Or is there a acoustical/psychoacoustical/scientific phenomena which the reason why its so popular?

If so, what is the line between attractive and unbearable/dangerous?

Any analysis from a scientific, theoretical or even spiritual standpoint would be great!

All the best!


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  • Jul 15 2012: Dear all,

    Thank you very much for your responses, I have taken on board some very insightful comments and used them to help sculpt a section in the paper about peoples perception of loudness.

    Now I would like you all to consider the opposite.

    What is the effect of silence on us?

    I personally find silence a lot more effective, especially in Sound Design in games/film/TV etc (it's what I do).

    On a social/psychological however too I find it a whole lot more effective than a loud space. Silence can really set the tone of the room that people are in, i.e. the tone of conversation, how awkward it is etc.

    I would love to hear your thoughts!
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      Jul 16 2012: Hi Rob.
      to address your follow up question, I find silence initially soothing. I need quiet for challenging reading and incorporating ideas from text however, with too much silence I feel lonely and isolated. As an extrovert I adore people and I find that I need their voices and rumblling around in life.
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      Jul 16 2012: Hi again Rob,
      I LOVE the sounds of silence. If you notice, there is never really total silence. The sounds of nature are all around us all the time, and I love experiencing those quiet, gentle sounds. Even if we think/feel there is no sound at all, we can hear our breath and the sound of our heart pumping...thankfully:>)

      Remember that song..."The Sounds of Silence"..."Hello darkness my old friend, you've come to talk to me again..."

      It is sometimes with the sounds of silence, free of mind chatter, that we discover more about our "self", and that is very comfortable and comforting for me:>)
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        Jul 17 2012: If there are sounds it is by definition NOT silence.
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          Jul 17 2012: Hi Debra,
          I responded to Rob's question..."What is the effect of silence on us?"

          I respect the fact that we have different perceptions. I don't honestly think you can identify what it is or is NOT for me...thanks anyway:>)
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        Jul 17 2012: I/ we can assume we are using the common useage of a word. What would happen to any communication if we all redefined common words?
        I do agree now that you were not responding to me. I simply observed the position of your response and not the level of indenture. I notice that you also routinely respond in threads and did not realize a response would offend you. Sincere apologies for that alone.
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          Jul 17 2012: Yes, we can assume we are using the common useage of a word. Yes, I routinely respond in threads. I simply observed the position of your response as well...directly to me, as what appears to be a correction. I am not offended...just want to clarify that my perception is as valuable as your perception:>)
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        Jul 17 2012: Advertisement (Bad banner? Please let us know)
        si·lence (slns)
        1. The condition or quality of being or keeping still and silent.
        2. The absence of sound; stillness.
        3. A period of time without speech or noise.
        4. Refusal or failure to speak out.
        v.tr. si·lenced, si·lenc·ing, si·lenc·es
        1. To make silent or bring to silence: silenced the crowd with a gesture.
        2. To curtail the expression of; suppress: silencing all criticism; silenced their opponents.


        Perhaps you are still right as always Colleen. You raked me over the coals in my very first respnse on TEd and you are at least consistent if not edifying to me..
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          Jul 17 2012: Dear Debra,
          No one is "raking you over the coals", nor do I think/feel I am "right".....ever.

          In our first conversation on TED I disagreed with you, and respected your perception. I am doing the same thing in this situation. Thank you for noticing that I am consistent...I appreciate that:>)
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        Jul 17 2012: As you stated earlier you do notg et to tell me how I FEEL COLLEEN. Please stop trying. As you point out I do affirm you. I know that is not your practice toward me. How do you presume to speak for everyone?
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          Jul 18 2012: I do not in any way attempt to tell you how you feel Debra...sorry you feel that way. I speak only for myself always...all ways. I have reached out to you several times Debra, and you have a choice to accept that, or not, at any given time. I care about you.
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          Jul 18 2012: Thanks Myf E,
          I mentioned the "sounds of silence" in response to Robs question, because I enjoy listening to the sounds of nature, even though I may be in a "silent" mode. I agree that silence, for some, can mean depression, loneliness or just a temporary feeling of being too alone, as you insightfully say. Sorry you experience that challenge.

          Thank you so much for your kind words...I appreciate your feedback very much.
          "Your comment is bringing the life back to silence, saying there is no silence at all, by bringing us out of the cold deadly silence. (which suggests noise and silence live together)".

          I honestly DO feel a lot of life in silence, and because I LOVE interacting with people so much, I believe I have a balance of silence and noise whenever I choose either possibility.

          There was a time...after my divorce, the kids were both off to college, and I sometimes felt alone, and needed/wanted noise and people around me all the time. I had never lived alone in my entire life...going from parent's home, to a roommate, to marriage and family of my own. It felt lonely at times. Compounding the feelings of loneliness, were the facts that my parents died aroud the same time, I faced cancer, and sustained a near fatal head/brain injury. I sought people, activities and noise to remind myself that I was still alive and living the life experience.

          I think/feel we are still on topic...discussing loudness, and/or the sounds of silence and how it may impact our lives in so many ways. Thanks Myf E...I appreciate your insightful comments:>)

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