This research seminar is a personal reflection on a recently published paper “Repetition detection and rapid auditory learning for stochastic tone clouds” (Agus & Pressnitzer, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2021). The goal of the seminar is to complement the dry summary of research contained in the paper with a narrative on the motivations behind publishing such a paper, the non-linear journey towards its completion, and its role in the broader goal of understanding our hearing. “Tone clouds” are customised sounds designed to be used when investigating our impressive ability to learn new sounds rapidly (Agus et al., Neuron, 2010). Although tone clouds can be tweaked to be easier or harder for us to distinguish by varying their tone-pip density, some small deviations from this trend led to a model of tone cloud perception that explained our results unexpectedly well and pointed towards the first known broadband sound that is, from the ear’s perspective, “flatter” than white noise.
Dr Trevor Agus is a hearing researcher and senior lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. He is broadly interested in all aspects of hearing, but particularly how we recognise and perceive everyday sounds in the complex mêlée of sounds that are the norm in our everyday lives, and the implications for how we work with sound in sound-engineering and musical contexts. He completed his PhD with the Institute of Hearing Research in Glasgow and worked as a post-doctoral researcher for five years, with Daniel Pressnitzer, as part of the Équipe Audition at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.