When we discuss what makes the sound in any medium: film, music, video game, theater, etc. effective, it usually boils down to one of four aspects, and often all four: the detail in the design, the emotion conveyed, the way the sound meshes with the visuals, and the mix of the sonic elements. When sound design exists on its own, with visuals and voiceover removed or non-existent, we lose some of these key elements (or should we call them crutches?) we can rely on to help express these concepts, especially emotion, since we process so much emotion via spoken word, visual imagery and music. So how do we bridge that gap and create effective pure sound design that can still evoke emotion? The answer may lie in the concepts behind the very elements we have removed.
While we can consider emotion a sense of feeling, it is a fairly abstract concept to describe objectively, due to cultural and personal differences of perception.
Setting and ambience can go a long way in creating emotion, but it may not always have the intended effect due to the listener’s emotional conditioning. For example, if you create a beach scene complete with waves rolling up the sand, gulls crying, children laughing, etc., Some people may begin to relax because it reminds them of summer vacations or surfing every morning. Other people may have a more anxious response because they can’t swim, got stung by a jellyfish once, or saw too many Sharknado movies.