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Re: Musical vs everyday listening

Two publications that might of interest in this context:

Interesting discussion about what dimensions support objecthood in different modalities:
Author = {M. Kubovy and D. van Valkenburg},
Journal = {Cognition},
Month = {June},
Number = {1-2},
Pages = {97--126},
Title = {Auditory and Visual Objects},
Volume = {80},
Year = {2001}}

A bigger experiment about what we hear in our everyday life
Author = {J. A. Ballas},
Journal = {Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception ans Performance},
Number = {2},
Pages = {250--267},
Title = {Common Factors in the Identification of an Assortment of Brief Everyday Sounds},
Volume = {19},
Year = {1993}}


On 11 Jan 2007, at 13:19, Kevin Austin wrote:


I read here that you (tangentally) support the idea that this is not about 'object', but about perceptual / cognitive process. In your first paragraph you say nothing about the sounds, but the changes in the listener. The 'metrics' of the situation had not changed, but the ability to process / understand information had.

In my experience, the object of the study of sound is an understanding of how the mind works, expressed through, or conceived in sound. [hypothesis] The students have until then thought of sound as 'existing' outside themselves, as being identifiable 'object' -- independent of perception. In the training of the (inner / mind's) ear, a major break can occur when the listener stops believing that it's "out there".

Physical systems provide the stream of data -- it will be the mind that will segment and organize it. Theories of hearing are like theories of music ... for me, I haven't read a description / definition of what hearing or music is. But that's not to negate them in any way. The Romans didn't have a symbol for the 'number' (sic) zero, but they built a mighty civilization.

(Guided) experience and education (with a gollop of genetic aptitude) seems to be the way "into" the sound. There are multitudinous examples of sonic incompetence (Janet Cardiff's Forty Voice Motet springs to mind), cases where the 'idea' is interesting, but is given the wrong parameters.

I "get inside" the 'music of / by the environment' the same way I get inside the Bartok Fourth Quartet or the Grosse Fuge, partly with the aid of the acoustic event, but more through a 'cross- modal' structuring of the information. For me, it is not possible to help people develop this structuring process without teaching 'perception as process'.

The students returned and talked of hearing "busses". The next time out, the instruction should include this task:

Stay out until you have heard six busses pass by. Each will have a different sound, from smooth to rough, whiney to grumbling, noisy to resonant. As you hear each bus, mentally create an image of the sound within these categories. When the bus has gone, remember the sound, and reduce it into the category, and give a numerical (or color) value to it. Store the 'reduced' set in your mind.

The object of the exercise has been to focus on the differences between the sounds -- the intervalic distance. Non-absolute pitch musicians hear relationships and need to build webs / maps of the relational information. In my experience, the individuals who develop finer and finer grids for the differentiation and classifying different sounds possess this "golden ear".

Is everyone capable of developing the "golden ear" ... ? Hmmm ... But I have seen that traditional methods of doing this are "incomplete".

Best wishes for the new year.


  1. Musical vs everyday listening (2)

Date:    Wed, 10 Jan 2007 11:46:22 +0000
From:    Peter Lennox <P.Lennox@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Musical vs everyday listening

I've experimented with sending audio engineering students on soundwalks. Most come back reporting that they never realised ust how much they ignore. They also realise within about 30 minutes how incomplete are the theories of hearing that they have so far encountered.

I've been nibbling away (for 20 years!) at the concept of
"music-as-environment", using ambisonics, WFS, etc. The idea of a piece
of spatial music that one can be inside, and can navigate and explore,
fascinates me - it seems somewhat distinct from the notion of music in
an environment, although the boundary is naturally blurred, i think.

One thing that has come up from this discussion is that it seems likely that once some perception of musicality has been evoked, it would take a good deal to suppress it. have to think more about that.

Dr. Peter Lennox
Signal Processing Applications Research Group
University of Derby
Int. tel: 1775

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