Assignment 8: Who’s there?

I go to a circuit training gym, and since it reopened after covid, we’ve had to stand in line to take our temperature before we’re allowed to be admitted into class. This designated spot is obfuscated by a bunch of equipment, and it’s not always easy for the trainer on duty to be alerted whenever someone arrives. They are also likely to be re-setting the equipment for the next class, and unable to rely on visual cues.

Whenever someone arrives at the door, the ultrasonic sensor initiates the speaker to start playing a tune to alert the trainer that someone is here. Once they take their temperature is taken and they leave that spot, the tune automatically stops because the distance sensed in the ultrasonic sensor returns back to baseline. This is less frustrating and annoying than a doorbell or buzzer, which can startle other people in the room and disrupt their pre-workout stretch.

Sometimes, the trainer uses a vacuum cleaner to clean the gym between classes, and can’t hear soft ambient noises. In this case, the person waiting can use a button to sound a buzzer and stop the tune playing to attract the attention of the trainer more effectively.

//Setting up ultrasonic speaker pins
const int trigPin = 12;
const int echoPin = 13;

//Defines variables
long duration;
int distance;

//Setting up speaker
#include "pitches.h"

//Setting up melody:
int melody[] = {

// note durations: 4 = quarter note, 8 = eighth note, etc.:
int noteDurations[] = {
  4, 8, 8, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

//buzzer interrupt
static const int togglePin = 2;
bool buzzerState = false;
const bool isInterrupt = true;

void SwitchPressed()
  //play buzzer

void setup() {
//To read ultrasonic speaker
pinMode(trigPin, OUTPUT); // Sets the trigPin as an Output
pinMode(echoPin, INPUT); // Sets the echoPin as an Input
Serial.begin(9600); // Starts the serial communication
pinMode(togglePin, INPUT); // Button for buzzer


void loop() {

//Reading from ultrasonic speaker
// Clears the trigPin
digitalWrite(trigPin, LOW);

// Sets the trigPin on HIGH state for 10 micro seconds
digitalWrite(trigPin, HIGH);
digitalWrite(trigPin, LOW);

// Reads the echoPin, returns the sound wave travel time in microseconds
duration = pulseIn(echoPin, HIGH);

// calculate distance
distance= duration*0.034/2;

// print distance
Serial.print("Distance: ");

//  digitalWrite(11,HIGH);

  // iterate over the notes of the melody:

  for (int thisNote = 0; thisNote < 8; thisNote++) {

    // to calculate the note duration, take one second divided by the note type.

    //e.g. quarter note = 1000 / 4, eighth note = 1000/8, etc.

    int noteDuration = 1000 / noteDurations[thisNote];

    tone(8, melody[thisNote], noteDuration);

    // to distinguish the notes, set a minimum time between them.

    // the note's duration + 30% seems to work well:

    int pauseBetweenNotes = noteDuration * 1.30;


//  digitalWrite(11,LOW);
    // stop the tone playing:


Assignment 8 – Sound is spatial

Sound to me is spatial and that because it triggers my spatial modalities of perception such as vision, touch and proprioception. Through the latter ones, a person perceives space and its properties such as shapes, relations, textures, materiality, as well as his/her body’s relation to space and particular objects. Therefore, when I hear a sound, I have the tendency to visualise, spatialise and make kinaesthetic projections onto my body.

For example, when hearing the workers building on the construction site, I particularly focus on the sounds being produced using their tools. Those make me visualise materials being transformed; I try to understand the nature of the material itself, how rigid that is, what kind of texture it may have and the kinds of visual transformations that take place when it collides with different tools.

Or when hearing the echo of a person walking or talking in a space, I close my eyes and visualise how spacious and tall this room is. Or when raining, I render spatial the rain’s strength or the environment’s humidity degree. Finally, because of my dancing experience and the effect of neural mirroring on me, when hearing to music such as the sleeping beauty, I visualise famous dancing patterns and sometimes I perceive the difficulty to execute them.

Assignment 8

For me, sounds usually work in both culturally specific and universal ways, sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously.

Something innocuous could feel ominous, for example, because it connotes an entirely different undertone in different circumstances. I grew up in a crowded city, so bustling areas meant high human traffic and more generally, areas which are safe. In contrast, sketchy streets usually have low foot traffic and are very quiet. When I moved to the SF, lots of my friends complained about the traffic noise and city sounds and preferred living in the quiet suburbs. My experience was completely the opposite – I found the suburban areas eerily quiet, and I struggled to feel relaxed in an environment so deathly quiet it felt like a horror movie. I felt way more at ease and fell asleep much more easily being surrounded by ambient city noises.

Sounds can also evoke emotions and feelings from remembrance of a place, or event. Food preparation is a huge undertaking in my family in preparation of the Lunar New Year, so the sound of deep-frying, chopping, mixing, crinkling of plastic and paper wrappers, etc. during that time of year brings up festive feelings of celebration. We used to get incredibly excited at the sound of deep-frying as kids because that was a signal that seafood and vegetable fritters were being made. I had a friend who was overseas so homesick on year that she asked her mum to bring the phone to the kitchen just so she could hear food in the wok frying. For someone who works as a fry cook, however, this sound might not be as energizing.

Even without intending to, mechanical sounds (such as from cars) often convey emotions. It’s possible to honk in a sequence to sound extra-angry, but near impossible to do so to honk in a way that conveys sadness, fear, joy etc. Arguably, when people get excited and honk when sports teams win, they might do so joyously, but the quality of the honk still sounds super angry to me. Lots of other machinery operating also carry an aggressive, hostile undertone. I often find myself feeling belligerent and irritable when I hear a leaf blower nearby. If taken out of context, I would struggle to identify / guess what the Star Trek sounds meant. Combined with the context of a scene, however, that would be much easier to parse. I usually am able to use these cues to infer what new sound effects are supposed to mean.

Sound also operates in universal ways – the fact that we can understand Pokémon perfectly when all they do is repeat their own species shows that tone, volume, pitch, etc. are great at conveying emotion. Music also achieves this on a universal level through different styles of play the same notes – staccato conveys tension and/or energy, while legato is much more soothing. Sleep machines also leverage the universally relaxing sounds in nature (the ocean, rainforest, thunderstorms, etc.) to help people relax and enter restful sleep. These universal sounds can still be experienced differently by individuals though. Rain is a special one for me – I grew up in a place with lots of thunderstorms, and when I first moved to California I was so unaccustomed to the lack of rain that I felt actual physical discomfort, as if I was holding my breath and couldn’t really exhale. Though many people would feel soothed if they hear rain, I doubt that their experience would be so adverse if they didn’t hear it regularly. Similarly, some people find silence deafening and find it much easier to focus against the backdrop of pleasant chatter in a café setting, while others abhor any sort of background noise when trying to concentrate.

Assignment 8

The effects of sounds on me physically and emotionally are closely related to the experience I had when I heard the sound before. For example, when I hear the ringing of large bell my breath slows down and my shoulder tends to relax. Emotionally I feel relax, calm, and gradually proceeds to “empty”. This is because I associate the sound of the ringing of bell with my previous experience in temples I have been to. For another example, when I hear the sound of stir frying, I have the impulse to smell whatever that is being cooked because smell indicates the status of the food and whether it is time to add seasoning. Emotionally I also feel a little uptight because I have to watch the food and make the right decision at right time before the food is over-cooked.

New meaning can be attached to sounds that are previously meaningless when a new experience  is acquired. For example, the sounds of boxing glove hitting boxing mitts seem identical and are hard to tell if no context is given. However, the more boxing a person does, the more he or she can tell if the hit is powerful and at the right angle from the sound of the hit.

I have listened to the “Suspend 1″in the star trek sounds and I guessed its meaning to be uncertain and dangerous. I then listened to “Red alert” and this time I guessed alert. In many movies, TV-series, and video games alert is often portraited by some combination of sounds from lower pitch rising to higher pitch. In terms of car sounds, I think the sounds of gears, tires, and honks have more meanings than other sounds made by the cars. When I hear a new special sound effect, I first compare it to sound effects I heard before. If there are similar ones I heard before, I will have a similar emotional feel as if I am hearing the similar ones. If it is nothing like anything I have heard before, then I will respond to the volume, rhyme, and texture of the sound effect.

Assignment 8

I find it interesting that many old sound effects don’t even apply today. For example, some of the old computer sound effects are no longer relevant today. Another point to note related to film sound effects is that because of the mass use of certain sound effects in the film industry, we relate certain sounds with certain events when in fact these events don’t actually make these sounds in real life. For example, fruit cutting always has sounds in movies but we don’t really hear that in real life, but we can easily recognize these sounds. And for special effects sounds that I’ve never actually heard, I actually never question them and just remember it and make new association. Now that I’m thinking about it, I am not sure if that is a good thing…

I think many sounds carry emotions. When I hear someone scream, I get agitated. When I hear nails scratching a blackboard, I get disturbed. When I hear sound of the waves, I feel peaceful.

Assignment 8

I have quite a few feelings associated with sounds, so I’m going to just list them below for clarity:


  • Jingling sound on a dog collar
  • Oven timer because it means desserts are done usually
  • Housemate playing guitar


  • Flies buzzing, especially because we have way too many of them in the kitchen
  • Neighbors playing music really loudly
  • When I was in Morewood Gardens, the fire alarm because it went off falsely a bunch of times
  • Loud work-boots on the floor above me


  • Neighbor in the room next to mine (duplex) talking and laughing loudly really late at night after I’ve asked for them to at least do so quieter/downstairs if it’s past 1am. Thankfully this has basically stopped since the first few weeks of school where I was kept up till 3-4am consistently…


  • Rain

Without titles/names and no video, I wouldn’t be able to tell most of the sounds from Star Trek, but the red alert, transporter and photon torpedo sounds to me relate well to the names. The computer noises without any other clues sound like what robots would make. To me, car sounds mainly don’t carry an emotion unless it’s honking which is used to convey annoyance much of the time. When it comes to sounds I’ve never heard in movies, I tend to just believe that they make sense without questioning it; I even learn the sound association pretty quickly. Thankfully I’ve never heard a gun go off anywhere near me, but babies crying always seem louder than they probably are. I think this could be because of how high pitched it is.


Assignment 8

Mini assignment: Listen to sounds and relate how they make you feel, both physically and emotionally. If the Star Trek sounds didn’t have titles/names, could you still guess what they mean? Do car sounds carry any emotion? How do you respond to special effects sounds for sounds you’ve never actually heard? How loud is a gun shot? How loud is a baby crying?

The sound itself evokes various physical interactions. When I hear a car honk, I jump. Or when I hear the helicopter flying on Craig street, I unconsciously raise my volume when I talk to my friend. Emotionally, they can often petrify me when I hear something squeak when I am alone, or make me nervous/lazy when I know that my morning alarm will ring soon. Or even my cat, when she meows, I instantly feel curious and try to communicate.

I think the sound itself is important as well but the fact that we can mimic the sound plays a big role. Like your question, if the sound effects didn’t have titles/names, for example, 808 base, one can mimic the sound and go “boom boom boom” and someone would be able to tell that it’s 808 base.

The reaction I had when I heard a sound that I never heard in my life from sci fi movies, the weird thing about it is that I just believed it. Like Wall E, I don’t know what I imagined future moon robots to sound like, but beep boop is very convincing to my expectations.

There are some sounds that carry emotions. The best and the most expectable example would be music. Because music without language such as EDM can also bring happy emotions to people which even increases people’s heartbeat to the rhythm.

I feel like decibel plays a lot in the world of sound, but the part I am interested in sound is what kind of interaction thunder brings. Thunder is not only shockingly loud but also evokes an immediate physical reaction in people. Moreover, the distance becomes ambiguous. Like when you are trying to walk towards the moon and can never get closer, that’s how I feel about thunders.

Assignment 8: find sounds and describe how they make you feel

Mini assignment: Listen to sounds and relate how they make you feel, both physically and emotionally. If the Star Trek sounds didn’t have titles/names, could you still guess what they mean? Do car sounds carry any emotion? How do you respond to special effects sounds for sounds you’ve never actually heard? How loud is a gun shot? How loud is a baby crying?