Sonification Design: From Data to Intelligible Soundfields

Front Cover
Springer, Jul 30, 2019 - Computers - 286 pages

The contemporary design practice known as data sonification allows us to experience information in data by listening. In doing so, we understand the source of the data in ways that support, and in some cases surpass, our ability to do so visually.

In order to assist us in negotiating our environments, our senses have evolved differently. Our hearing affords us unparalleled temporal and locational precision. Biological survival has determined that the ears lead the eyes. For all moving creatures, in situations where sight is obscured, spatial auditory clarity plays a vital survival role in determining both from where the predator is approaching or to where the prey has escaped. So, when designing methods that enable listeners to extract information from data, both with and without visual support, different approaches are necessary.

A scholarly yet approachable work by one of the recognized leaders in the field of auditory design, this book will

- Lead you through some salient historical examples of how non-speech sounds have been used to inform and control people since ancient times.

- Comprehensively summarize the contemporary practice of Data Sonification.

- Provide a detailed overview of what information is and how our auditory perceptions can be used to enhance our knowledge of the source of data.

- Show the importance of the dynamic relationships between hearing, cognitive load, comprehension, embodied knowledge and perceptual truth.

- Discuss the role of aesthetics in the dynamic interplay between listenability and clarity.

- Provide a mature software framework that supports the practice of data sonification design, together with a detailed discussion of some of the design principles used in various examples.

David Worrall is an internationally recognized composer, sound artist and interdisciplinary researcher in the field of auditory design. He is Professor of Audio Arts and Acoustics at Columbia College Chicago and a former elected president of the International Community for Auditory Display (ICAD), the leading organization in the field since its inception over 25 years ago.

Code and audio examples for this book are available at

Here is an excellent review of the book by Dr Gregory Kramer:

“Worrall proceeds bravely through the trees and vines of philosophy, information theory, aesthetics, and other contributors to sonification design theory. It’s a feat. He nails all of this down with the specific implementation system he’s designed over many years, and applies his theories to specific problems. In a field of research still in its first half century and setting its bearings in a world where human perception has become a sideshow to machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, the roots David provides will serve well.”

Dr Gregory Kramer is the founding figure in the emerging field of sonification, founded the International Conference on Auditory Display (ICAD) and editor of the first book in the field, "Auditory Display: Sonification, Audification and Auditory Interfaces" (Addison Wesley, 1994).



Table of Audio Examples
A Prehistory
An Overview
3 Knowledge and Information
4 Intelligible Sonifications
5 Towards a Data Sonification Design Framework
Getting Started
Market Data Correlation
8 ParameterMapping Sonification of TickData
9 Polymedia Design for Network Metadata Monitoring

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About the author (2019)

David Worrall is an Australian composer and sound artist working a range of genres, including data sonification, sound sculpture and immersive polymedia (a term he coined in 1986) as well as traditional instrumental music composition. Worrall studied musical composition at The University of Sydney and went on to develop a creative practice encompassing a number of endeavours: instrumental and electroacoustic composition, sound poetry and sound installations. He is a programmer in several computer languages and has developed software for music composition, text transformation and sonification. Worrall was appointed to the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne in 1979, where he designed and taught the first undergraduate course in computer music. In 1986 he was appointed director of the Electronic Music Studios at the Canberra School of Music. He established and became the foundation head of the Australian Centre for the Arts and Technology (ACAT) at the Australian National University in 1989, a position he held for over a decade. Worrall has been a regional editor for Organised Sound (Cambridge University Press) since 1996. Since 2000 he has worked as an academic and freelance composer, experimental artist and researcher. He was a senior research fellow (2013–2017) in sonification in the Emerging Audio Research Group at Fraunhofer Society and is currently professorial chair of the Audio Arts and Acoustics Department at Columbia College Chicago and an adjunct senior research fellow in the School of Music, the Australian National University.