Going to an international conference to present a PhD research

I have just returned from an international conference on digital audio effects. I loved it, what it has done to me, and to my motivation.


I have made the experimental research on something like the Kansei of sounds, or the subjective perception of very basic artificial sounds. I have written the paper and submitted it to this conference because I knew the conference was good, and this year it happened in my country. The paper matched the conference’s specifications (Perception, psychoacoustics and evaluation) and it got accepted. The two reviews were very positive, I have made a few modifications, the proofreading was spotless and then the paper was ready.

The day approached and a week earlier I started making my presentation. I did it, re-did it, practiced it alone for my phone, heard me over and over again. I was more or less ready.


I have arrived and the audience was very, very, gender unbalanced. Slowly I started talking to some people, the environment was really friendly and relaxed. We had some beers, some wine. I mingled, which is something that does not come easy in me.

I understood very little of everything that was being presented: digital audio filters, algebra, physics. The audience made, what seemed to be, really hard questions. I started to panic, very quietly.

The day arrived, I presented in the afternoon. I ate very little. I went to the bathroom three times in an hour. People told me I looked pretty relaxed: I was not. I was very afraid, feeling that I did not discuss this enough, had not enough feedback from my supervisors, why did I think this was a good idea? WAIT WHAT? T.C. is in my pannel? I just see every one of his talks on youtube, read every paper and have been reading his book on the past year. * GLUP*

My turn comes. I do the presentation, it goes according to planned, I even finish one minute before. I got asked maybe six questions, which is really a lot. The questions were curious, questioning the effect of context in the perception of sounds, of using environmental sounds as alarms, questioning my conclusions about the little effect a variable had (are you sure it was little? you should verify, some effects are ignored just because of the p-value). I believe being a little off-topic made the audience more curious.

It ended. I had the impression it was not very good, not that bad either.


People approached me in the following coffee-break. Talking about their experiences in hospitals regarding sound, about colleagues who are developing medical devices. They told me I did well, I looked cool, the topic was interesting as in “I have never thought about it!”. One person told me to keep doing what I was doing, another proposed ways of designing better sounds using real-world recordings.

I got the impression that it was not that bad.

Then I was really happy because I came. I heard new things, I met new people, I discussed my work with others. I work so alone that it felt like a marvelous new world to me.

I hope to get more opportunities like this, and to grab them like I did. The final lesson is to just go, the final balance will always be positive. I feel like working, man!


Update #4

Update: I have presented my first PhD paper in an international conference. I went very well, uff!
  • Have made an oral presentation at an international conference;  HFES Europe Chapter, 14th Oct 2015 + DAFx2018, 5th September 2018
  • Have 2 work-related papers published; (1 and 2/2)
  • Have 1 PhD-related paper submitted; (dafx2018)
  • Have made sound collections in two different environments (1/2);
  • Have concluded the first and second experimental tasks;
  • Be independent in R, LaTeX, sound capture and it’s edition;
  • Have some sort of project/visit abroad  Summer School in Control Room Verification and Validation in Halden, Norway

Sound design and marimbas

Yesterday I saw this 2016 video where two sound designers react and explain some of the world’s most recognizable sounds. Exactly a day before I had shown some of these sounds to some product design students and it is quite amazing how we are all so tuned into these auditory interfaces.

At some point on the vídeo, about the Marimba iPhone ring, they mention some research made in Bell Labs about the best parameters for a ring tone.

Looking for a bit more info, I found this article about this ringtone, and it says:

Scientists at Bell Laboratories, Human Factors Research Lab performed numerous studies on ringers, from buzzers to thumpers. They studied tonal quality and duration along with the decibel levels needed for the brain to recognized the call alert. They even tested the Grandpa to the iPhone “old phone” ringtone. In 1956, 300 research subjects in Crystal Lake, Illinois found the “musical tone ringer” to be “pleasant,” but took most test subjects over a week or so to get accustomed to it. However, when pressed, a majority of test subjects wanted the old bell ringer back. Not much has changed since from the days of the early Human Factors research, the brain still works the same, but the technology obviously allows for more finite control of the sounds a ringtone creates.

Ideally, a ring tone should register very clearly and distinctively in the audio range that is central to human hearing, from about 2 to 4 KHz, with a Dynamic range (quietest to loudest) of about 96 dB. Even though this audio range is quite crowded with a lot of sound, it is also precisely where most spoken languages carry a majority of phoneme distinction, and thus, we have evolved a relatively high level of sound discrimination central to this audio range.

For a ringtone to be decoded ideally by the brain, the timbre of the audio envelope ideally should pulse to a full dynamic range to nearly no sound with-in a 3 – 5 second cycle (Bell Labs Research). The relative amplitudes of the various harmonics primarily determine the timbre of instruments and sounds, though onset transients, formants, noises, and inharmonicities also play a role.

Iannis Xenakis’ notation

I don’t know much about music. Never had serious music formation, I have real trouble understanding some things. This means I never seriously reflected on many things I take for granted, like music notation.

I am reading “How music works” by David Byrne for several months now. It is not super engaging, but I am enjoying it immensly as I am learning a lot about music.

He speaks about the music notation we use in the west and how much room for interpretation does it leave. I knew there were different notations, but I don’t really know what are the pros and cons of each – still don’t.

He spoke about Iannis Xenakis and how he wrote his pieces and I was really impressed. He made all these lines and connections, and how each should behave in relation to another, and took so much space to do so! I am pro conventions, but to see someone doing things unconventionally is so refreshing! I loved this.

1 Coríntios 14


1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.


1 Segui a caridade, e procurai com zelo os dons espirituais, mas, principalmente, o de profetizar.

2 Porque, o que fala língua estranha não fala aos homens, senão a Deus; porque ninguém o entende, e em espírito fala de mistérios.

3 Mas, o que profetiza fala aos homens para edificação, exortação e consolação.

4 O que fala língua estranha edifica-se a si mesmo; mas o que profetiza edifica a igreja.

5 E eu quero que todos vós faleis línguas estranhas, mas, muito mais, que profetizeis; porque, o que profetiza é maior do que o que fala línguas estranhas, a não ser que também interprete, para que a igreja receba edificação.

6 E agora, irmãos, se eu for ter convosco, falando línguas estranhas, que vos aproveitará, se vos não falar, ou por meio da revelação, ou da ciência, ou da profecia, ou da doutrina?

7 Da mesma sorte, se as coisas inanimadas, que fazem som, seja flauta, seja cítara, não formarem sons distintos, como se conhecerá o que se toca com a flauta ou com a cítara?

8 Porque, se a trombeta der sonido incerto, quem se preparará para a batalha?

9 Assim, também, vós, se com a língua não pronunciardes palavras bem inteligíveis, como se entenderá o que se diz? porque estareis como que falando ao ar.

10 Há, por exemplo, tanta espécie de vozes no mundo, e nenhuma delas é sem significação.

11 Mas se eu ignorar o sentido da voz, serei bárbaro para aquele a quem falo, e o que fala será bárbaro para mim.

12 Assim, também, vós, como desejais dons espirituais, procurai abundar neles, para edificação da igreja.

13 Pelo que, o que fala língua estranha ore, para que a possa interpretar.

14 Porque, se eu orar em língua estranha, o meu espírito ora, mas o meu entendimento fica sem fruto.

You Want a Social Life, with Friends

Sounded appropriate.

“You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.

There isn’t time enough, my friends–
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends–
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day’s end?

Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.”

– Kenneth Koch