The acoustic environment as resource, and masking, as key concepts in soundscape discourse and analysis
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Several underutilized concepts warrant further development in soundscape discourse, analysis and design. The first set of concepts consider the outdoor acoustic environment as a resource, including notions of different beneficial uses of this resource (a term borrowed from water resource management), and maintenance of diversity as a resource management approach. The second set encompass the notion that, underlying human experience of a soundscape, any individual (or group), in any particular context, will invariably be able to hear sounds that are wanted (by them, in that context) and sounds that are unwanted. This is a fundamental starting point for soundscape analysis and, by extension, soundscape management and design. These wanted and unwanted sounds need to be distinguished one from the other in measurements of human perception of a soundscape and measurement of its physical acoustic properties. Identification and quantification of the wanted and unwanted sounds allows introduction of acoustic masking as a key determinant of human perception of a particular soundscape, and as a tool for acoustic management and design. These concepts are illustrated through two different acoustic environments: an urban park in which there might be sound from both a water structure and from city noises/road traffic; and a wilderness area in which natural sounds predominate.
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