I don't believe that there are any "official" categories for classifying
real world sounds. In my opinion, Gaver's taxonomy of environmental
sounds, while clearly not perfect, is still the best that we have for
classifying sounds in general. At least it is a great starting
you wrote in your email the problem of classification is very
this is one reason why you have not been able to find much information
about it. Real world sounds are produced by a great variety of
sound sources which cannot be unambiguously classified either.
tried to find some kind of an underlying perceptual structure of
environmental sounds (e.g., Ballas, 1993; Marcell et al., Gygi,
that has not revealed any clearcut categories. Which is not to say that
there is no category structure, but rather that the categories do not
reveal themselves very easily and unambiguously with the analysis
we are using. My preferred analogy for the perceptual organization
world sounds would be that of the lexicon where individual items can be
classified based on acoustics/phonology, and also based on the
significance/semantics/meaning. Of course, this analogy is not perfect,
and I offer it just as one way to think about the problem. For one, for
most environmental sounds the relationship between their semantics and
acoustics is not as arbitrary as it is for words.
If I understood you correctly, and your goal is synthesizing musically
useful noises (possibly based on some real world sounds) then rather
trying to come up with a general all-encompassing classification of real
world sounds you may have more success figuring out specific types of
noises/sounds that maybe interesting for your application. Or, you
to find a way to represent different types of sounds in a smaller
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Ballas, J.A. (1993). Common factors in the identification of an
everyday sounds. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception
Performance, 19 (2), 250-267.
Gygi, B. (2001). Factors in the Identification of Environmental Sounds,
doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
Marcell, M.M., Borella, D., Greene, M., Kerr, E. & Rogers, S. (2000).
naming of environmental sounds. Journal of Clinical and Experimental
Neuropsychology, 22(6), 830-864.