Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Acoustical Consultant

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Acoustical Consultant

Article excerpt

Sound experts combine science and art to "systematically and reliably control how something will sound to an audience," says Los Angeles--based acoustical consultant Pantelis Vassilakis. "This requires an understanding of sound as a physical entity, signal, physiological response, and perception." There are many career paths available, focusing on architecture (designing spaces to produce the desired sonic response), the environment (measuring and mitigating noise), product design (for instance, to ensure that the sound of a car engine or door communicates the desired brand and quality messages), and, of course, music.

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Work overview

I currently work for the KAABOO Music Experience festival. I work with the promoter's technical team, city officials, and others to minimize the event's noise impact on the surrounding residences, while satisfying the aesthetic expectations of the artists and audience. I evaluate the programming, venue, sound system, and artist expectations. For instance, Aerosmith, a stadium rock band, would have very different expectations than an acoustic musician of how their music should sound.

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I use computer models to make initial predictions on sound spread and reach, test them, and make adjustments. It is important to understand the limitations of the predictive models used. I have to determine representative locations for baseline noise measurements, which I compare to noise measurements taken during the festival, to evaluate the event's noise impact. I also interact with city and venue representatives to explain the steps we're taking to reduce any such impact. I enjoy solving acoustics and aesthetics problems and communicating with people about the challenges.

Career path

I've always loved science and music. I first studied electrical engineering in college in Greece. I began my formal music studies at age 27, thanks to a scholarship to study music composition in England. I eventually combined my interests through a PhD program in systematic musicology--a mix of musical acoustics, sound perception, and aesthetics--at the University of California, Los Angeles. It involved math, physics, physiology, and psychology. My focus was on the physical, physiological, perceptual, and cultural correlates of our emotional responses to sound. I also received a postdoctoral certificate in auditory science for researching the inner ear. …

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