Ken Greenebaum, who co-edited this book with Ronen Barzel, and wrote some of the articles, indicates in the preface that his motivation for putting Audio Anecdote together was to get the book he had wished for when he was starting out in digital audio. What he came up with is a wide-ranging collection of 25 articles on various aspects of sound--what it is, how we hear it, how it affects us, how it can be produced and altered, and how it can fool us. Some of the articles are rigorously scientific and technical, while others really are anecdotal and personal. Most significantly there is a wealth of information about the manipulation of sound, and there is some history of the development of our understanding of sound.
Most of the material is aimed at people who have an intense interest in audio, and audio reproduction and development, and who already have some knowledge. However this book also works well for a rank beginner (such as myself). The articles are clear and well-presented with many black and white illustrations, tables, diagrams, and mathematical formulas, not to mention programming code! There is a glossary and there is some overlap in the "anecdotes." For example, after a brief overview of the book, Greenebaum begins with an introductory-like article on what sound is and how we measure it. This is followed by a more technical article by Hesham Fouad entitled "Understanding the Decibel." This in turn is followed by Greenebaum's essay on "Sound Propagation." His exploration of the physics involved is clear and easy to read.
One of the many things that I discovered is that "When we speak on the telephone, a portion of our voice output is intentionally played back to us through the earpiece." Derek DiFilippo and Greenebaum explain in their article, "Perceivable Auditory Latencies" that "If we didn't have a clear sense of hearing ourselves speak, we would tend to talk louder and louder because we [would] assume that the listener on the other end...[wouldn't be able to] hear us either." (pp. 74-75)
I also learned (from Oscar-winning sound director Randy Thom in his article, "Designing a Movie for Sound") that the wise film maker should make his movie with sound in mind pre-production, not as something added on afterward. As Thom points out, in the great cinematic experiences, "the visual and aural elements are working together so well that it is nearly impossible to distinguish them." (p. 406) He mentions the opening of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and the bird attack scene in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), and the opening of David Fincher's Seven (1995) as examples. And I can't help adding the striking opening sequence from Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter (1973) as another preeminent example of how sound can be as important, or even more important, than visuals in making a scene a lasting experience.
Included with the book is a CD that you can listen to with examples of sounds keyed to the discussions in the articles. The effect of latency ("the time between human input to a system...and system output," p. 65) and many other sound phenomena are demonstrated in the most effective way possible--by hearing them.
Special mention might be made of writer Adrienne Ross's personal contribution, "Understanding Hearing Losses and Hearing Gains...," which truly is an anecdote, beautifully written about her discovery of a hearing defect that she had lived with most of her life without realizing it. The fact that she had compensated for the defect by using her other senses, dramatically demonstrates how our experience of sound is not isolated from our other sensual experiences.