Presentation of te Chavasse Award to Patrick Susini

Publish date
April 17, 2018

April 23, during the forthcoming 14th edition of the Congrès Français d’Acoustique, the Société Française d’Acoustique  awarder Patrick Susini with the 2016 Chavasse award. Patrick is the head of the Sound Perception and Design team at IRCAM (STMS – Ircam/CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Ministère de la Culture).

This award is given to a renowned scientist and/or head of a research group who has worked for a long time on the development of acoustics. Patrick Susini will receive this distinction for his work on sound design and, more particularly, on the articulation between function and beauty in the practice of sound design, a theme he will address during a presentation on the same day.

Could a functional sound be beautiful?

Considering design and ecological perspectives, a general definition of sound design was proposed: a sound design approach is implemented to create new sounds in order to make intentions audible in a given context of use (Susini et al., 2014). Intentions are of different types: the first intention is to reach efficiently a goal thanks to the sound (functionality), the second one is to produce an harmonious reaction in the environment combining satisfaction of the user (pleasantness), coherence with the product (identity), and, as far as possible, embellishment of the environment (ecology). Successful sound design should be the articulation of the different intentions in order to produce new interactions through sound.

However, behind the formal aspects of a sound, there is always intention associated to its function. For example, an alarm sound has a strong spectro-temporal mark corresponding to its warning function that tend to limit the possibility to shape the sound in coherence with the environment. This is the tricky part of the process taken in charge by the sound designer; to be able to combine functional constraints concurrent to aesthetic aspects. The presentation will discuss this articulation between usability and beauty in the sound design practice.

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Patrick Susini

As Director of Research at IRCAM, an important issue in my work was to design an experimental and theoretical framework making it possible to combine research on perception with sound design applications by addressing several questions: How do we communicate the characteristics of a sound? What are the perceptive dimensions of timbre that underlie the qualities and identity of a sound? How does the signification of a sound depend on a process of interaction between an individual and their environment? These works are still in progress, but we can find some of the answers to these questions in recent works in which I participated: Measurements with Persons (Psychology Press, 2013), Sonic Interaction Design (MIT Press, 2013), and Frontiers of Sound in Design (Springer, 2018). This research is carried out through collaborations with composers as well as in an educational setting, notably with the creation of the diploma in Sound Design at école des Beaux Arts du Mans where I have taught since 2010.Another focus in my work is the cognitive processes involved in the perception of complex, multi-source soundscapes (non-stationary), notably in terms of interaction between local and global information. This subject is studied in close collaboration with two other CNRS laboratories: the LMA in Marseille and the CRNL in Lyon.