Quantum Echoes: Embodiment through Sonic Immersion
by Jennifer Grossman
adviser: Nina Katchadourian
defense panel members: Agnieszka Roginska & Dafna Naphtali
Spatial sound practice has been establishing itself in American and European art and music culture since the mid-20th century and now just becoming self-aware. Finally being incorporated into formal institutional and educational settings, there is interest brewing in its development but questions surrounding its relevance. Both practice-based and critical theory fields have been implemented, and the field of sound studies is developing. Practitioners spanning a range of disciplines are able to question sound from a variety of perspectives including but not limited to technology, acoustics, experimental composition, perception, therapy, meditation and relational aesthetics. Most importantly, this field bridge the gaps between science and arts, in account holding artists responsible for knowing how the media works from creative, technical, and presentation-related angles. The infrastructure for this kind of work is very minimal, as it is ephemeral, time-based, and uses technological structures that art galleries and institutions do not often having in place. Creating an awareness of sound art, design, and composition methods that actively utilize a spatial practice will open the doors to widened options for sound as a media to be integrated to the daily sphere, for experiential, artistic research to be embraced, and for a wider range of immersive art involving sonic experimentation to be created.
This thesis looks at sonic phenomena through immersive, multichannel positioning, as a soundscape of naturally occurring synchronicities unbounded in perceptual time and space. I look at how sound it brings understanding to various concepts that I’ve thought heavily about during the creation of this work: space, time, acoustics, perception, embodied consciousness, and listening. Through both research and the creation of an installation I explore sound as a catalyst, a mode of transport, a non-material, non-object, a vessel into expansive thought and embodied experience. I argue that immersive sound is a relational “non-medium” that affects us directly, viscerally, emotionally, and spiritually that breaks the cultural trend of association with the visual. I investigate how immersion and embodied listening can induce felt, holistic, self-conscious awareness that we can apply to daily life, and how sound specifically can be a tool for attuning ourselves to ourselves and our environments.
My interest in sound has come from an ever-evolving interest in and strong sensitivity to sensory phenomena: how light projects through window glass and warms us, the reflections and shadows of water and trees, the crunch of boots in snow on a winter street. Through keen attentiveness to these sensory phenomena, where otherwise disconnected, I am able feel a sense of connection to my surroundings and to the greater whole of things. I have been able to find a sense of the sublime, the spiritual, the sense that I am a part of something larger, through phenomenological experience. This impulse is in fact, I think, results both from a sense of personal and social dislocation in my upbringing, but also, a result of a sense of disconnect and distrust of modern society and a deep-seated cynicism about the commodification of daily experience. In America’s visually-oriented late capitalist society, we have prioritized consumption over creation. We have become obsessed with the gleaming surfaces of commercial products, buying and profiting off of experiences. We live amidst a deeply saturated media, a loud and flashy world of industry that degrades our hearing every time we listen. In fact, we’ve forgotten how to listen, how to sit with merely the thoughts in our heads, how to take charge of our perception. I think sound art has given me and has the abilities to give others the space to not only ponder what we hear, but to become more in tune with all of our senses, and who we really are in the context of things, in real space and real time. This is an art form that’s not about looking or the object of our looking, but embodied experience of the world every day.
The trajectory of my discovery started from a young age, first building things on my own in my basement, to becoming a saxophonist, then a multi-media artist and sculptor, I verged from creating large scale sculptural installation to exploring projection, light, and shadow in space. Then I re-discovered sound. I began viewing sound not in musical terms, but as a sculptural phenomena, shaped by Newtonian physics and imagined through visual language. I made recordings and installed them in spaces, all having some sense of the unexpected, the other-worldly, or the psychological amidst the every day. As I’ve progressed in my arts practice, I’ve felt a responsibility to learn the science of sound and through this, have come to realize how integrated space and sound actually are. Resultingly, sound has taken a more relational position in my mind and its object-hood has de-materialized. I’ve realized that if this kind of sound is governed by physics, it is not the Newtonian kind, governed by predictable laws, but in fact, the ‘quantum’ kind, which really means to me, the opening up of infinite possibilities. And because it exists in time and space, it is a media that opens our mind into realms beyond the physical.
By expanding sound out of form and into boundless space and time, it only reflects off of spaces and bodies, we can gain more information about the world and ourselves in conjunction, a more complex, multi-dimensional state of experience. It can make us aware of a spectrum of perception, how it can blur our notions of reality, therefore propelling the realization that we have the ability to create it and change it. As we create an awareness of sound, we create more of an awareness of ourselves individually and culturally. As sound artist Bill Fontana stated back in the 70s, “Sound as a medium is still lost in our culture.” (Licht, 2007) My hope is to bring more physicality and awareness to it through this paper and an installation, Quantum Echoes, which will materialize many of the concepts I describe below.
“Whenever we judge anything to exist in time, we are in error. And whenever we perceive anything to exist in time–which is the only way in which we ever do perceive things–we are perceiving it more or less as it really is not.”
-J. ellis McTaggert
Like experimental music pioneer, John Cage once said in regards to music composition, “Synchronicity argues that there are, in effect, two ways of looking at time. One sees time as being marked by a series of events, which happen one after another. The other, is a more typical of the grand philosophies of Taoism or Buddhism in which equal attention is paid to what is happening in the same moment, what is synchronized.” (Richards, 1996) In Western culture, time circulates around tasks, around linear events that have a beginning and ending. In a sense, composers are philosophers of time. When one is creating sound or music, one is in effect creating or removing a sense of time. Iannis Xenakis spoke of the idea of “temporal differentiation”, that producing modes of sonic-spatial experience that transcend Euclidean space, where a listener can perceive differently according to their own location, time is no longer absolute” they can open their mind to diversity and simultaneity. (Born, 2013)
Likewise, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s compositional tools involved moment forming and the idea of synchronous time. A bit like the effect of listening to white noise, moment formed music presents that all sound is happening at all times. What this states is that sound has the ability to reveal time’s omnipresent nature. (Samuel, 1996) In revealing this omnipresence, one can almost say that time does not exist, or that sound dismantles notions of linear time. We resonate with sounds of the past. There are stories, words, sounds happening in our head related to the past and the environment we presently occupy. Our projection of the future affects our very moves. We talk of the past, present, and future, when in actuality, I will argue that all of these forces are playing into our experience simultaneously, we know that the bounds time are not limited simply to the container of our bodies. Places and spaces beat with sounds of history, politics and cultural memory. The past is a sense of holding on to realities that exist in other times, and time is just a construction for discussing this sense. Sound is a media in which this is revealed. We can experience the present yet physically “be” elsewhere.
Sound can trigger a distinct sense of the past, especially because the memory and emotion centers of our brains are linked. When we hear a sound, we are not just hearing a sound from the past, but that sound initiates full-body memory and emotions associated with that moment into the present moment. (Samuel, 1996) A psychoacoustical effect called anamnesis merges sound, perception, and memory, through the triggering of past mental images into the present state. Sonic Experience (Augoyard & Torgue, 2006) We can compensate for the losses of hearing impairment by melding perceptual inputs. By integrating the physicality of sound; through the subwoofer, ‘we can “round up” memories and images of sound and space’. (Saks, 2007) By hearing a past sound in the present, it in a sense becomes part of the present.
“The very experience of time has become a paradox. We have access to sounds of the past, but all of them seem to be part of the present in some great collage of juxtapositions. And yet, we are emotionally succeptible to the bringing back to life of a sound that has long been silenced. Bringing back all the feelings associated with the original sound. Sound recording is a powerful link to the past.” (Traux, 2000)
Sound is a force that brings light to a perspective on time that is about our perceptive engagement. In the field of phenomenological psychology, Gerald Edelman talks about “the remembered present”, that every act of perception is to some degree an act of creation. (Edelman, Fekete & Zach, 2012) This stems from Husserl’s phenomenology and view that time is the infrastructure of reality1 In his view, there are three facets of consciousness: the sensory facet or the “primal impression”, the impressions and sensations existing in the here and now, the “primary memory” or “retention”: the awareness of recent history, and “protention”: my anticipation of the future of a thing or event. In opposition to this multi-faceted view, cognitive neuroscience presents the view that our responses to the world are “stationary”. (Edelman, Fekete & Zach, 2012)
These two conceptions look at time as a “feature” of conscious experience, claiming that we must somehow ‘embody’ temporality. (Edelman, Fekete & Zach, 2012) Another conception is that of the “dynamical systems perspective” which is more about describing something through a lens rather than trying to claim that it objectively exists as an entity. (Edelmen, Fekete, Zach) So if we are to fuse the dynamical systems perspective with the idea that on some level we can have an awareness of primary memory, protention, and retention simultaneously, we could say that temporality gives us the space to reconfigure self-awareness and reflect, an awareness of trajectory over time. (Edelman, Fekete & Zach, 2012) Jorge Luis Borges once said in “The New Refutation of Time”, “Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” (Borges, 1968)
What better way to ‘embody time’ than through sound. When we embody time through sound, we are first able to perceive timelessness because time is not external to us. There is a balance between our inner clock and outer actions. If we think about our time not as dictated by our routines, it is actually something we can shape. Secondly, listening to sound allows consciousness to take place continuously, creating a sense of the eternal within a limited environment. (Edelman, Fekete, Zach, 2012) This “eternal” notion has often been associated with quantum physics, where music is “a multi-dimensional, unfolding process and a relationship between an individual or group of individual and sound vibrations” (Juett, 2010), resulting in what Oliveros calls a “quantum listening” experience. (Juett, 2010) She says this is the “edge” or the border where compositional possibilities emerge. (Juett, 2010) Sound waves literally can go on forever if there is nothing to attenuate them. It can even be thought of as resilience, survival, or the resistance to time. Spatial sound practice maximizes embodied experience expanding our time sense into the perceptual infinite.
“Always what was important to me was the notion of being immersed in enveloping space, and the sensation that you’re fully enveloped,… it’s not about interactivity but the fact that you are spatially encompassed and spatially surrounded—it’s all around—and that’s what sound is.”
“When space is understood not in abstract or absolute terms, but as socially and politically constituted, a spatial sound practice can emerge not only as a poetics, but as a politics, not only as an aesthetics, but as an ethics. such a critical spatial sonic practice does not merely ‘happen in space, but is poised radically to transform the very terms of its constitution.”
Space can be looked at as a reflecting container of sound, depending on the positioning of the listener, s(he) will experience sound differently. We can look at sound as being imprinted with spatial information from its source onward. Sense of spatiality is created through the size and type of space, how much waves are free to travel and how much they are attenuated. Augoyard and Torgue state an extremely important point in “Sonic Experience”, that sound cannot merely be described in terms of signals. It is integrally linked to both environment and conditions of hearing and listening. (Augoyard & Torgue, 2006) I’m looking at a sort of combined theory of acoustics where I believe the energy transfer model is very real, but then acknowledging the listener’s positioning in space through Traux’s communicational approach. 2 (Traux, 2009) Since sound is invisible, it is hard to describe and we begin to think of it as a “thing” rather than a “spatial phenomenon”. There is also this idea that sounds are simply signals or waves, flowing through space. I want to add another layer to this. I want to look at sound as encoded waves or energy that also embody a context, that do not actually become audible until they vibrate, resonate, and reflect off of something in space such as air particles or the walls of a room. I want to know sound for its powerful invisibility and presence, not within the confines of human perception, and not for how we perceive it visually. “Sound is intrinsically relational, and at the core of sound art is an activation of the existing relation between sound and space.” (Born, 2013, 17)
R. Murray Schafer believed that all sounds and music are part of one ecology, or that all sounds should be treated equally. (Traux, 2000) He believed that industrialization has forced us into separating the natural from the man-made, lo-fi from high-fi, or schizophonic, the split between an original sound and its electroacoustic transmission or reproduction. (Traux, 2000) Jonathan Sterne finds this idea of sonic essentialism to be counter-productive, as thinking about a source point for sound in contrast to what it has become through technology assumes that the process in which it evolves through is somehow separate or devolving in nature. (Traux, 2000) By speaking this way about a loss of sound from its origin is only a further way of separating it from its cultural position.
Consideration of space within music composition has spanned from looking at sound as an object to sound as existing in space. During the 1950s with the rise of music concrete is the beginning of the notion of a spatial sound practice. Pierre Schaeffer’s “objets sonores” or sound objects were not only material but phenomenological, referring back to a source, object, or technology, occurring as spatial events. The concept of “acousmatics” was all about questioning viewing sound under the guise of the visual. (Iges, 2000) Composers such as Boulez, Brant, and Henry, used space as a compositional parameter of sound since the mid-20th century. (Bates, 2009) During the early music concrete performances, Schaeffar was using the idea of spatial diffusion or movement of sound along sonic trajectories, static and dynamic sources of sound controlled by a performer. Pierre Henry diffused magnetic tape stereo recordings to multiple loudspeakers. These sorts of compositions focused on temporal, spectral and spatial development of sounds, not always taking into account relations between them. Multichannel setups were embraced by composers like Stockhausen. (Bates, 2009)
So what I am talking about here is what current sound artists speak of as a “spatial sound practice”, I am taking all of this into consideration. I am looking at sound events not as just happening in space, but being a reflector of space and all of the acoustical elements of space and them being fully integrated into composition. I seek to integrate a sort of combined theory of acoustics where I believe the energy transfer model is very real, but then acknowledging the listener’s positioning in space through the communicational approach. (Traux, 2000) In effect, we are no longer talking about Euclidian space, possibly space-time, but most probably, as Michel Serres puts it, ‘spacing and timing’ or ‘relation propositions’.
“Hearing is a way of touching at a distance.” -Dyson
“We are immersed in vibrations whether we perceive them or not” -Nancy
Sound is all around us all the time, and we hear it because the hairs in our cochlea vibrate at certain frequencies and the nerves in our body and brains receive electrical impulses. It affects our body physically.
“Although sounds and even more general noise emissions are not visible and not tangible, they are nevertheless physical realities inasmuch as they exist as pressure differences in the air, mechanical vibrations in the middle ear, liquid vibrations in the inner ear and finally as electrical impulses in the nerves leading to the brain. Just as radio waves, light waves and the electrons circling the atomic nucleus are characterized by time and space dimensions, so it is also with sound and other noise emission in all forms.” (Winckel, 1967, p.4-5)
Sound is not just something we hear, it is something we feel with our bodies. In sound, things like contour, tonality, and interval sizes are not as diverse or distinct. Many sounds don’t really have a discernible pitch (Huron, 1996), we just hear them as generally “high” or “low”, based on their frequency, which is still a bit subjective. Highly unrelated frequencies and inharmonic components would be what we consider “noise”. (Orbach, 1999) I would concur that this “tonal ambiguity” might be a reason we don’t pay as much attention to the sounds around us as we do to music. It is certainly not common that we find ourselves humming the sound of cars going by. Times when non-musical sounds tend to really alarm us is when they are loud (outside the range of the human voice), intense, very low, very high or severely isolated. We may be alarmed by a siren or a birdcall, but these are very tonal examples of sounds, and they are usually louder that the natural listening range of a human is. We can easily categorize what sounds are because there are really only a handful that we need to be aware of for survival, and we hear them all the time whether we are conscious of them or not.
Acoustic events yield sound waves that flow in all directions reflecting or diffracting off of objects and the listener at different times. Both direct sound and indirect sound affect the listener’s perception of the sound source. High frequencies tend to reflect away while lows wrap around the body of the listener. (Kendall, 1995) Localization of sound is based upon what is called the duplex theory. It states that there are two primary cues we use in localizing a sound. One is the inter-aural level difference (ILD). If a sound is louder at one ear over the other we infer that source is in the direction of the ear where it is louder or the ipsilateral (closest) ear. This is due to the head shadow affect where the actual mass and shape of the head blocks sound from reaching the contralateral (furthest) ear. The other primary cue is the inter-aural time difference (ITD) and takes into account the difference in time it takes a waveform to propagate from the ipsilateral ear to the contralateral one. Which cue is used is frequency dependent with ILDs working in the range above approximately 1500 Hz and ITDs below approximately 1500 Hz. (Kendall) This 1500 Hz threshold is due to the length of the audio waveform. Below 1500 Hz the waveforms begin to wrap around the listener’s head and the mass of the head is no longer effective at attenuation. Localization of sound sources is typically denoted in spherical coordinates. These coordinates are in angles of azimuth and elevation.
When a sound is transmitted between two or more loudspeakers that are located within relative proximity of each other a phantom image (or location) of the sound source is created that appears to be between the actual speaker locations depending the amplitude at each speaker. When these sounds reach each ear a single auditory object is perceived with a directional location. This is known as summing localization and how the location of the phantom image is perceived. (Pulkki) If a listener’s head faced forward is located along the median plane between two loudspeakers there is little head shadow effect and difference in amplitudes from each speaker can create virtual ITD differences down to about 400 Hz.
Zahorik talks about perceived distance in that azimuth and elevation of a sound source are only part of the story, that there is an unaccounted for dimensionality to the source, or a width. Along with distance perception, spatial precept cues are also multidimensional. Also, environmental context plays a large role in distance perception, primarily things like reverberation caused by room reflections.
“Like a light source on a painting, the sound reflections from the surfaces of an enclosure or in the outdoor environment can potentially cause a significant effect on how a sound source is perceived.” (Zahorik, 2002)
Primary and secondary localized sound sources perceived cause an effect on the virtual sound source’s location and the formation of a sound source image made by the listener.(Zahorik, 2002) Zahorik mentions that in room environments, intensity and direct-to-reverberant energy ratio are the primary cues to distance, therefore in auditory displays such as a multi-channel sound system, it is important to present consistent changes as to these cues to create a semi-realistic image. Of course things like type of source signal, direction, and distance play into this as well. Familiarity of sounds also plays a huge element in distance perception. So can spectral content relative to a receiver’s position (Begault, 2000) Non-acoustical factors, like vision, affect sonic perception. When we look at sound as object, we are framing it within the confines of our visual perception. It is known by neurobiologists like Seth Horowitz that our visual system is much more convoluted and much less direct to the brain than our auditory system. (Horowitz, 2013) Since we refer to things “as fast as the speed of light”, even if not explicitly stated, in western culture, sight is understood to be the fastest sense. Having visible targets entices us to associate a sound with a source image. Even seeing speaker or a person makes us perceive that any sound will come from that visible source. For both directional localization and distance localization, this phenomenon is known as the ventriloquism effect. (Zahorik, 2002)
“Every sensory interaction relates back to us not the object/phenomenon perceived, but that object/phenomenon filtered, shaped and produced by the sense employed in its perception.” -Born
Psychoacoustic experience has more to do with our expectations than we realize, but psychophysics tells us that without the spatialization of sound and its context in a room literally causes us to lose the sense of its emotional and perceptual dimension. Our perception, on a base level is already limited. We schematize the world in order to make sense of it. If our perception merely reflects our daily routines and rituals, it is already being limited. This human tendency to compartmentalize experience can be shifted and expanded through sound. The sort of composition that this installation engages, lets us spend the time to embody and therefore perceive. Immersive sound is an effective way of shaping mental experience as it is the most direct phenomena to hit the brain. A good way to study the perceptual effects of sound is to look at individuals’ experiences in its absence. Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia describes the different (but strangely overlapping) experiences of those with hearing loss. Some noticeable effects include interestingly enough that perception of timbre, pitch, tempo—the qualities of music and sound do not change, but that the dimensions of the music do change. (Sacks, 2007) Patients have described that the space plays a key role in the emotional experience of it; reverberation of the room, spaciousness contributes to the emotional effect, otherwise it is perceived as flat and lifeless.
In an experiment where the listeners listened to music with an earplug in one ear, the experience was described as, “causing not only a problem in judging depth and distance, but unexpectedly far reaching, causing not only a flattening of the whole visual world, but a flattening that is both perceptual and emotional.” (Sacks, 2007) The listeners also spoke of feeling “disconnected”, having difficulty in relating spatially and emotionally to what they were seeing. One patient who suffered from a brain aneurism with severe bleeding in his frontal lobes, experienced a general loss of emotion and expression, but singing was able to bring that sensation back in him. “It was as if music, its intentionality and feeling, could ‘unlock’ him or serve as a sort of substitute or prosthesis for his frontal lobes and provide him the emotional mechanisms he seemingly lacked.” (Sacks, 2007) The transformation was not only felt by him but was neurologically observable.
This is only the beginning of an exploration into the assertion that our perception can literally be expanded through sound. According to music psychologist Jeanne Bamberger, hearing sound is a process of instant perceptual problem solving, and hearing in a new way is learning to enrich one’s own understanding of music, to perceive in a new way. (Bamberger, Jean, 1978-86) I think this can also be applied to hearing any sound. To expand perception means to expand mental restrictions or conventions; freedom of creativity, freedom from expectation. Between the spatial and temporal delay of a sound wave’s cycle, there lies a moment where we are actually able to become aware of our perception. Though, as I mentioned earlier, our auditory system is actually much less convoluted than our visual system and sound is affecting us at all times, most directly, it physically and psychoacoustically distorts our conception of time. (Horowitz, 2013) Psychoacoustically, the word “stereo” infers a spatio-temporal disparity (which can be applied to hearing or vision). We use these differences to create a larger perceptual landscape and to formulate impressions or opinions about what is heard/seen. (Sacks, 2007) The inner ear acts like “a prism for sound”, separating it into its pure frequency components, and is reflected on the basilar membrane. (Sacks, 2007) Other psychoacoutical phenomena such as delocalization and desynchronization can distort our perception of reality. It is possible to engage in sonic illusions while still knowing that they are not realistically happening in time and space. This phenomenon occurs when the listener recognizes that the sound is out of place while being conscious that it is an illusion.
Embedded in the very nature of sound is the concept of “awareness creation”, starting from a very practical sort of awareness to a more creative awareness. From all perspectives: biology, physiology, etc., sound’s initial apparent purpose in our lives was to keep us more attuned to our environment. As auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz say in his book, “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind”, we are always hearing when we can’t see. (Horowitz, 2013) Even back while our convoluted visual system is working hard to give us a clear picture of reality, our auditory system is converting auditory information from waves to mechanical energy into an electrical signal that travels to our brain much faster. Sound can provide us the “what is” quite clearly in multiple dimensions over time, while sight can give us a somewhat artificial representation or flattened version o of “what is” by piecing together the moment. 4 We may be able to see the image but there is nothing as direct as the heard.
“Listening as an activity, an interactivity, that produces and invents and demands of the listener a complicity and commitment that rethinks existing philosophies of perception.” -Juett
When we experience sound, our bodies act as both a mobile “architecture” and a “sensor” of an environment. By architecture I do not mean a static, enclosed entity, but a soluble container. We are containers of experience and material that is affected by sound, but we are also receptive to the environment in the way we listen. Which I will explain in a later section, listening is not limited to the ears. We absorb what is around us, while also being containers of our own internal sounds. What “embodied” art does for the viewer is to replaced a dualistic “mind/body” with an integrative notion of “mindbody”, to create a “body conscious” experience. We are a series of relations rather than static entities. (Dyson, 2009) As for what this piece can “do” for our body, it can activate the senses, putting us more in touch with our environment.
On a biological level, sound affects us. Charles Darwin wrote over a century ago about sound as an evolutionary necessity needed to trigger fight or flight response in times of danger. 5 (Darwin, 1872) In the daily sphere, sound evokes physiological, gutteral, emotional responses to aid us in survival. It can invoke involuntary panic, anxiety, equivalent to a fight or flight response, it can move us to tears, or cause shivers down the spine. Though not many studies have investigated music on a physiological level, not as many have investigated sound. 6As it is clear that music can invoke these responses there has been debate as to what is the most significant trigger of these emotions. Is it rhythm, key, timbre, pitch etc? Or is it more complex than that? Regardless of the specific results, one could say that no matter what the response, sound affects us bodily, and a whole network of experience is tied to this.
Along with states of hyper-awareness, sound can bring us to different subconsciouss levels. During a sound therapy session I once experienced the phenomenon of entrainment. A woman had a tuning bowl that is known to resonate at a frequency that centers our attention. In New York, everyone is coming from everywhere with a whole range of mental states but this one tone was able to all bring the whole room into nearly immediate focus. Afterwards, we all verbally discussed how we were affected, and the majority of responses were the same: that as the tone resonated longer, our minds calmed and we began to feel an increased sense of unity with others in the room. I immediately became interested in entrainment. This phenomenon, which unifies our brainwaves to the same frequency, literally gets people on the same “wavelength”, changing the frequency of an object near us to fall into sync with ours. I equate this sense of unification with getting outside of your individual body to be more in tune with another’s and therefore being more connected to a larger human body. The self is lost. (Dyson, 2009) We all can share the same space through a sense of the dissolution of self and reunion with environment, a body and world blend and a sense of oneness can be achieved.
Most functioning of things in the world is based on rhythm or cyclic movement. We are moving to circadian rhythms and functioning day to day at certain frequencies. Internally, our heart rate, breathing, and bodily processes are moving at a specific rhythm. As sound directly affects the body and brain, it is a good way to induce entrainment. It can bring our brain functioning to certain frequencies and therefore certain brain states. For example, rhythm happening just below average heart rate, around 60bpm will slow the brain waves to alpha waves and induce trance states. When the brain can detect phase differences or two slightly differentiated signals, a phenomenon called “binaural beats” occurs, inducing altered brain states. The result is the creation of a beat frequency which is the difference of the two signals, usually a subsonic tone. Below is an image of these different states, ranging from an “alert state” to a deep “subconscious” state. 7 The interesting thing is that entrainment is an “active” process of changing things around us to work closer to our frequency whereas resonance is more “passive”, simply aligning an object to that of its own natural frequency.
As Buddhist philosophy theorizes that we can become one with all that is around us by letting go of suffering and becoming aware of our larger connection to the universe, I believe that sound is a direct method of transport to reach a transcendent mental state. It is no surprise that music and sound facilitate a process of transcendence, but what element is it that initiates this process? Elongation of temporal perception? The social experience of being in the same sound-space with others? The specific frequencies that are triggered in the brain?
Magill illustrates that sound facilitates transcendence, lifts and inspires the human psyche to reach a multitude of domains simultaneously and be “transported” to other times and places. (Aldridge, 2006) 1 Pauline Oliveros, an experimental music pioneer whom I will reference later on, talks similarly about, but in a more approachable way the notions of “local” and “global” consciousness. Local consciousness is our attention to our immediate surroundings, our daily state. Global consciousness reaches beyond this as to include a larger span of information, a state where we are able to get beyond ourselves and our own perspective.
Similarly, with regards to the brain, there are baseline brain states or psychological sense of self and association of self with the body. An altered state is when our association with the body dissipates and we feel whole, uncontained, as if we are something larger. (Aldridge, 2000) It has been proven that activities such as meditation, music, dance, and even drugs are activities that break the train of sequential verbal thinking. It has also been known that musical sound can ease the sense of existential loss, enhance a sense of personhood and spiritual connection and sense of meaning. (Aldridge, 2000)
“Transcendence is the process in which humans move beyond the immediate time, place, circumstance, and transport to places and concepts of meaning, enlightenment, and inspiration. Aldridge states that as a process, transcendence is seen as taking us beyond our small selves, outside the everyday limitations of personality…to take an enlightened interest in others and the world through which we are led to greater knowledge and a greater capacity to love.” (Aldridge, 2000, p. 38)
I’ve come to wonder what this transcendent experience is regarding sound, and I think it is part sense of community in listening, but also the exchange and expression of an inner, universal self that we all share as humans. Sound conveys a sense of presence without the creator or performer being there. The process of occupying a space immersed in sound, even while having a subjective experience from a certain position of listening, creates a sense of community and connection. As a result of our current information age, it is often difficult to hear what is going on around us, much less listen to it. Listening becomes a process of the intentionality of hearing, hearing our environments but also our inner selves. What is going on in the resonant cavity of our own body? I believe the practice of different modes of listening can help us became more attuned to these things.
Listening immersively instigates emotional and bodily vulnerability. Similar to the experience of the sublime, where you are looking at yourself in contrast to an abyss of wide open landscape filled with possibility, being immersed in sound engulfs us in a way in which we can surrender ourselves to something greater. Hearing in itself is full of possibility. We can never fully “close” our ears to our environment. Even when we are unaware of it, we are hearing. Listening is an active process of becoming aware of this fact, of becoming attentive to the information passing through our auditory cortex and throughout our bodies. As we become aware of what we hear, we become aware of our vulnerable position in the world.
Pauline Oliveros, an experimental music pioneer who talks about listening as an exchange between people and environments. She talks about “focal” and “global” attention throughout her Deep Listening practice. Similar to focal and global consciousness, focal attention describes paying attention to the details, limiting the span of our perception, whereas global attention describes opening and expanding of our attention to take in the whole of sound. (Oliveros, 2005) “Deep Listening” is a mode of listening that extends receptivity to the entire space/time continuum of sound, calms the mind, and brings awareness to the body. Deep Listening It helps us become multi-dimensional listeners within our space and seeping in from other spaces. Oliveros ties the opening up to the universe of sounds to having a deeper understanding of ones self, one’s presence, one’s relationship to their environment and to others. (Oliveros, 2005) Sound helps us make this connection, to be more empathetic and receptive.
Johnathan Cohen quotes in his essay, “Sounds and Temporality”, “Sounds survive changes to their properties and qualities, determinate perceptible or sensible qualities, however, do not survive change in this way.” (Cohen, 2010, 6) Slight mutability over time encourages a kind of interactive vulnerability, it gives listeners the time to absorb and to hear. Similarly, claims have been made that sound as opposed to music creates a sense of flux that opens up the doors to new dimensions of consciousness and transcendence.8
Eric Clarke, a music philosopher raises a philosophical perspective on how we listen, suggest that the way we think about an influx of auditory stimuli flowing into our bodies is unrealistic; that sound is in fact very physical, and we are part of a physical network where the brain is made to interact with sound rather than interpret it as something foreign. Another way to think of this might be new studies in the material sciences where materials are adaptable, and react to changes around them such as pressure, temperature etc, assuming a kind of unity between things. Clarke would go further to say that we don’t in fact interpret sensory stimuli and then put it into schemas (this is a schema in itself); that experience is externally structured and we are part of a network of experience; literally shaped by all that we encounter.
Michel Chion also presents three different active listening modes: Causal, Semantic, and Reduced. Causal involves listening to sound in order to gather information about its source, such as where it came from. Semantic has to do with representations involves listening to interpret a message or content. Reduced listening, that Schafaer adapted much before, has to do with focusing on elements or characteristics of a sound separate from content or meaning. While it is hard impose listening methods on listeners or to avoid standardized methods of sound consumption, I am intrigued to suggest that we are becoming more capable of choosing the way we listen, both technologically and perceptually. Sound art brings awareness to this possibility, perhaps suggesting ways in which we can use our sound sense to heighten daily experience, regain agency over our senses, and felt sense of connection to the world.
Artistic Aims Essay
“Sound never entirely disappears. It dissipates. It relaxes, spreads out, becoming less and less contracted, but it remains hanging in the air, a breath away from silence, fused with the relaxation of every other sound that ever rang out. This noise of near-silence is an imperceptible background buzz, a vibratory limit of sound at which a sound rejoins all sound. Evans calls it a ‘cosmic echo’, a universal history of sound.”
-Goddard, Halligan, and Hegarty
“The first concern of all music in one way or another is to shatter the indifference of hearing, the callousness of sensibility, to create that moment of solution we call poetry, our rigidity dissolved when we occur reborn–in a sense of hearing for the first time.” -Lucia Dlugoszewski
Quantum Echoes is a sonic manifestation of the above theories. A meta-composition of compositions, culminating into a soundscape, it compiles a variety of natural and synthesized sounds, musical and non-musical. Recordings were taken with very simple means, for example, one sound I recorded was a spoon hitting a glass. Creating something grandiosque with minimal means is certainly a method that runs through my practice. The sounds of Quantum Echoes evoke a sense of other-worldliness through low drones, reverberation, metallic recordings, covering a spectrum of sound textures. It uses a handful of sounds that become relational, are always changing, but simultaneously recurring. 9(Juett, 2010) In the arrangement process, multidimensional composition is taken into account. This piece can be viewed as a soundscape, an installation, or a composition. It seeks to expand music composition into space and time, to rethink the canvas of sound presentation, especially in art spaces. The very way we think about composition affects the way we compose. If we are thinking linearly or even in stereo, we compose in stereo. Quantum Echoes explores how to think about sound in 3 or even 4 dimensions as early as the composition stage. Through positioning, active consideration of space, various filtering effects, longevity, and immersiveness, Quantum Echoes brings us to different states of consciousness.
In a dimly lit rectangular space, 12 tracks in Ableton Live are routed through 7.1 surround sound, or 8 channels (2 front and back channels, 3 side channels, and a subwoofer). It creates a psychological and physical space that is void of any visual stimuli other than speakers, speaker stands, chairs, and the room itself. The intention is to have a semi-reverberant room in a somewhat isolated space that gives us room to safely reflect. Though I am interested in the notion of “interactivity”, the listener only truly “affects” the piece by the way they interact and listen. Some have moved around the space, some have sat in various chairs for a prolonged time, and some have staying in one seat for an entire hour. Though one may be affected simply by coming into the room for a short time, any noticeable effects in mental state may take time to occur.
Through its spatial immersion and its generative, ongoing composition, Quantum Echoes challenges the nature of passive listening. It first de-objectifies sound through re-orienting the viewers attention to the loudspeakers and the room itself rather than a select performer. Secondly, it encourages the act of “walking through” to explore it at various positions. Though the listener is immersed, he/she has to do work to discover the work. (Dyson, 2009) Thirdly, through this discovery, sound becomes physically and psychologically active, presenting a new way of engaging with sounds around us . (Dyson, 2009)
The main motive of this piece is to transport the listener to another mental or physical state. This of course will be subjective depending on individual experience, but I hope if anything, the piece is able to shift the listeners mental state, perception of environment, create mental imagery, or sense of the eternal through sound. From this I hope the listener can gain a sense that they are an active agent of their perception and be more intentional in choosing how they listen. We must realize that though we may not see an immediate connection to the things around us, we can be if we put our mind in that place. I hope not to create a passive experience, but to intentionally create sounds that instigate this kind of immediate connection with both environment and inner self. One may hear the soundscape for its aesthetics, but I hope that it goes deeper than that. The motives of this piece are somewhat altruistic, as I hope it brings people to a more “universal” or “transcendent” state without of course denying their own subjective, positioned experience. How can immersive sound experiences induce a felt, holistic, self-conscious awareness that we can bring with us into our daily lives? How can sound be more than an aesthetic experience, but a tool for attuning ourselves to our bodies and our environments? Why is sound the most effective “non-medium” to do this?
As referenced earlier, Quantum Echoes uses Stockhausen’s method of moment formed composition, or the idea that all things are occuring in every moment, though things come and go, ideas evolve and relax, but virtually nothing changes in the grand scheme of the piece. Similar to white noise, each moment of sound is full, or a composition in itself. Similar to a film technique where each shot is a complete photographic moment.
Another main composition influence for this piece is Steve Reich’s “gradual process” music that is about leaving musical happenings up to chance, putting in place certain recurring themes, but letting it unfold over time naturally. Through its ethereal, amorphic, other-worldly nature, it defies the notion of linear composition and therefore linear time. Integrating Oliveros’s practice, Instead of composing by constructing lines and parts that have a beginning, middle, and end, it works with the idea that all sound events are happening at once and how this can expand our mind to hear in many dimensions at once. Often the process of going about the world, we do not realize the content and history of what we are experiencing. Sound as a medium can inform us of these things physically, emotionally, symbolically, and viscerally without explicitly stating it.
As there are a variety of Sound Art practices, as mentioned earlier, the installation’s its multi-channel nature is what distinguishes it from being a “sound object” and brings it to being “a sonic event”: a method of displacing sound throughout physical space. As noted in my Background essay, the notion of embodiment has become a large trend in Sound Art practice. Similar to the minimalist movement, that refocused our attention from objects to perception, space, and time, I believe Sound Art is taking on that role in the current day. Many art worlds are currently bursting with new modes of emerging sound practice and awareness. Here I will cover a range of pieces that have in some way influenced the making of Quantum Echoes.
Probably the most influential piece in terms of spatial set-up for this work is Janet Cardiff’s “40 Part Motet”. At the Cloisters Museum and various locations internationally, Janet Cardiff arranges 40 speakers in a circular shape around a room, each playing a unique voice in the motet. Sometimes in a church, sometimes in a gallery the exhibition has travelled internationally. One is surrounded by a seemingly real choir, and the result is an immersive, psychological musical experience without the presence of actual bodies. It veers us towards the sound of the pure voice and the internal cavity it reverberates through. Whereas I’m trying to create a unified soundscape rather than having speakers exude different human “personas”, this idea of some sort of relational exchange between the technology itself and the sound coming out of it is applicable. As she attempts to “humanize” the speakers through vocal sound and vocal expression, I am also to some extent trying to “humanize” technology, to create the effect of presence when actual presence is not in fact there.
James Turrell, an artist who primarily transforms space with light installations, has similar motives to activate viewers’ perception. His immersive, architectural installations use light to change the viewer’s experience of space. The result though at times is that viewers get more caught up the aesthetics of the light than what it is psychologically doing to them. As I also used to work with light, I’ve found that sound brings us immediately to the physical and emotional space that light does not, therefore we cannot avoid feeling it and are more likely to reflect on it. Sound cannot hide behind its aesthetics. It is allows its content to be rather exposed and transparent, either through its direct path to the brain or to the emotional associations that it evokes.
Regarding the physicality and spatial nature of sound, an older piece that is still viewable in New York City and has been for 20-so years, is LaMonte Young’s “Dream House” installation. The fact that this installation has been on view for over 20 years and has no finite sense of duration illustrates this notion of time-based work creating space, meaning it can shift over time or it can compress or expand our conception of time, which in turn puts us inside a morphed sense of reality. The piece blasts low frequency drones from large subwoofers using the physical experience of sub-bass tones to extend our experience of sound in space. Coming out of it, one feels the positioning of the head in relation to the sound space through differences in pitch. The physicality of the sound begins to become apparent upon leaving the dense vibrations as if emerging out of a swimming pool.
A way that I think is helpful to think about sound’s presence is in terms of architecture. James Turrell said on a label at his most recent Guggenheim exhibit, Aten Reign, “When you walk into a room, space is just there as if it was waiting for you.” Sound is very much the same. Our ears are always open to it, but we are not always listening. To think about sound in terms of how it fills a room, how it reflects off of surfaces, how it transduces from mechanical to electrical energy instead of just being something that comes into our ears so that we can hear it. Sound is about vibrations, physicality, feeling the bass through the floor, letting low frequencies engulf our head and fast frequencies get lost in our heads. Sound is both physics and psychoacoustic; how we feel it physically and how we perceive it.
Recently at MOMA, one of the first recognized sound art exhibits has occured. Entitled “Soundings: A Contemporary Score”, it incorporated a variety of sound art practices, a few of them including spatialization of sound with multi-channel set-ups. “Microtonal Wall”, by Tristan Perich presents a wall of 1500 small speakers arranged in a grid that burst with different microtones. Perich has explained, “Each listener’s exploration of that aural space shapes what they hear, from the totality of white noise (from a distance), to the single frequency of each speaker (up close).” The subtle notion of having speakers embedded into the existing architecture of a space is a way to shape psychoacoustic experience without saying “here’s an art piece”.
Susan Phillipz’s “Study for Strings”, played on 8-channels is a contemporary interpretation of an orchestral work by composer Pavel Haas, that he wrote while imprisoned in a concentration camp that during the Holocaust. It presents only the string parts of those who survived and highlights the absence of those who passed through silence. Steven Vitiello’s “A Bell for Every Minute” was a piece done in 2010 that used a 59 recorded bell sounds from various locations around New York and then synchronized into one bell tone that rings at the top of the hour. Jana Winderen presented her piece, Ultrafield, which was presented as a 16-channel ambisonic installation, as to reproduce the actual environment of remote locations around the world, focusing on frequencies heard above the human hearing range and pitched down so that they could be heard in one soundscape.
Psychoacoustic experience was taken into account in the design of this piece. Various psychoacoustic and acoustic effects come to life in this installation, particularly localization and distance perception, localization being most important for identifying the source of a sound and distance perception in creating a sense of space and depth. Though Quantum Echoes is not trying to replicate an actual environment, it considers how room reflections and reverberation will create a sense of distance and delocalization of sound while contrasting that with, intense, pointed, higher-frequency tones. It uses low frequency tones to bring a sense of body into the experience, rather than just using higher frequency tones that sound close to the head. Having a large range of feeling like the sounds are near the head, moving past you, or far away increases the psychoacoutical space in which the listener can travel. Familiarity comes into play as it points at familiar sounds but does not replicate them exactly, giving the listener some ability to relate but still creating a sense of ambiguity and subjective interpretation. Both virtual reverberation and physical reverberation affect distance perception in creating a sense of space that the room does not actually contain. Having no visual stimuli to evoke the ventriloquism effect was important. It was important that the listener just focus on the sound in near darkness as to not be distracted by the visual source. When eyes are closed, this psychoacoustic sense is enhanced.
As the field of Sound Studies points out, over time, sound has become commodified, privatized, idealized, collectivized for the pleasure of bourgeois culture. Sound reproduction technology has promoted the idea of “listening alone, together,” segmenting acoustic space, mediating certain social behaviors within listening environments. (Sterne, 2003) This installation specifically uses a controlled, 7.1 multi-channel surround sound environment, where there are 8 speakers in a rectangular shape including a subwoofer, surrounding the viewer. What this does is to create layers of immersion so that the listener feels contained in the sound, like it is coming from all directions and enveloping them. As this sort of set-up is hard to find in galleries and institutions, and hard to foster in uncontrolled environments, Harvestworks is one venue that specifically promotes this setup. The sound is composed with this in mind, as to create the effect of one sound shifting from one speaker to another. Instead of the listener being able to only localize sound from one source, they can hear and feel it from all different directions as we do in daily experience.
This sort of technological infrastructure for sound art is hard to find, but what I’ve found doing installations in uncontrolled settings, is that it creates a focused environment for the listener and limits the number of factors in hindering one’s ability to perceive the sound. By having Quantum Echoes in a smaller, intimate, somewhat neutral room environment, I can somewhat isolate it from the work of these visually oriented institutions. The work is composed so that what Certeau states as “the discovery of sound” is possible, changing, and continually present. (Born, 2006) It looks at the relations between things rather than things in themselves, the relations between sound and space, sound and time, sound and body, and the sounds themselves. (Born, 2006)
Quantum Echoes explores this range of listening possibilities through intentional variations in frequency, delay, reverberation, speed as to reach a spectrum of distance and time perception. The piece also uses a variety of filtering effects, including reverbs, delays, and eq’s to vary the perception of where a sound is located in space. Aux sends are used to give the sense that the sounds are moving from one speaker to the next. By having the dry signal coming from one speaker and the delay sent to other speakers, it gives the illusion of an after-affect and in turn further connects the sounds to one another and themselves within the larger mix. With the prominence of electroacoustic media and the rise of recording and expansion of presentation methods, presenting “past” information in time has become more possible. (Traux, 2000)
My first concern was creating a sense of space. As mentioned before in the Perception section, if people can hear the range of closeness to range of being far away, there is space in between to move. If there is no psychoacoustical time difference, we only can detect certain frequencies. I hope to expand the range of frequencies that we can perceive. Similarly, I also create intentional tonal and timbral ranges, thinking about how more pointed sounds might be more isolated and more droney sounds might be more blended. Putting delay sends onto different versions of the same sound, and then spacing them across from each other gives the illusion of coherence, so that sounds are not only just coming out of individual speakers, but they are somehow related and “interacting” with each other. There was constant adjustment between the sounds in my head, the stereo mix, the multichannel sound environment in the research lab, and finally the space at Harvestworks.
As this piece was composed in a research lab and presented in the room at Harvesworks, various things differed: the dimensions of the space, the types of speakers, the speaker placement, the room reflections, the insulation/fabrics in the rooms. I found strength in the heightened reverberant nature of the Harvestworks room, the wood floors and drywall walls helped integrate the sound into the space and take on the characteristics of that space enhancing spatial awareness for the listener. The 7 large speakers placed at about head height and the one subwoofer I found to be slightly less precise in terms of ability to localize but gave more fullness/body to the sounds.
At various points I got critique, and adjusted the soundscape composition. One main point of focus was keeping coherency between the sounds and sense of unification in the space. By sending delays to channels, and having them replicate in different positions, the speakers became less definable as the source of the sound and began talking to each other. Another point, was the density of the sound. At points, I adjusted layers, took parts out and shifted sound volume. I also added more low frequency parts as to increase sense of bodily immersion. The last main adjustment was tempo shifts of things changing as to ease the listener into different states rather than having an obvious shift thrown at them. I think with the acoustics of the Harvestworks room, all of these compositional changes were really enhanced in a more reverberant, larger spatial environment.
Accompanying the piece was a series of voluntary questions that I left for people to fill out about their experiences surrounding my interests in perception and listening in the art context. I prefaced the questions with the below blurb about the piece and the knowledge that general findings might be reported in my thesis paper:
“Quantum Echoes” is a 7.1 surround sound environment, a meta-composition of compositions, synchronized, filtered, and spatialized. It considers the relational nature of sound itself, deconstructing sense of time, seeping into spaces removed from the guise of the visual or the material, where content is reaching for something beyond singular, discernible narrative or melody and reflects back on the listener for embodied, positioned listening and active perception. One is brought to an other-worldy place through a variety of natural and synthesized sounds intertwining and evolving with one another. The piece references (further explained in the written thesis) thinkers/composers/artists such as Cage, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Reich, Oliveros, Jung, Borges, Cardiff, Philipsz amongst many others who embrace multi-dimensional notions of time and actively use chance as a compositional process.”
Did the sound make you more attentive to your environment in any particular way? Describe how or how not.
How did this sound experience differ from daily hearing?
How did the installation experience differ from watching live music?
Was your sense of time and space affected? To what extent was it the sound itself that triggered this or the space it was in?
Was your state of mind affected? Did it induce any sort of trance-like or meditative states?
Please describe your overall experience.
I had many responses that spoke about the difference in hearing without visual stimuli. Many people naturally closed their eyes to experience the space and found that the soundscape destabilized their sense of time and space more so this way. Being in the dark or closing the eyes was fundamental to fully experiencing the effects of the sound. Many spoke of an initial hyper-attentiveness, even anxious response to their environment, that morphed into a more peaceful, meditative state as they spent time in the environment and adjusted to the sound. Many talked about becoming more inwardly focused as time went on, describing internal shift in mental states, such as dream sequences, scenic imagery, cinematic experience, a sense of loneliness or being with one’s self. Any shift in immediate time perception was initiated by following the movement of the sounds, while the overall sense of time was generally absent, and resultingly people stayed in the installation longer than they realized.
What made this different from watching live music for many was both in the nature of music and performance, following a melodic or linear musical form differed from the multi-dimensional sound design of this installation, while the lack of watching or getting energy from a performer made one withdraw more into their minds than experience a physical, social space. Some had the experience of psychoacoustical confusion because of all of the contrasting layers happening at once. While both dynamic and high frequency things, so were more subdued low frequency things, and to be able to hold all of this information in the mind at once was disorienting. It then became a matter of preference, perhaps, as to what one would focus on.
Many stated that the piece differed from daily hearing in that it made them more aware of their listening and the fact that they could change it. There was also an ambiguity as to what one should do in the space. This forced many listeners to take more agency in how they experienced the space. They reported that position in the room or even whether you stood, sat, or lie down on the floor affected their experience. Lying down was perhaps the most beneficial way to really get into the space, though many said they could fall asleep if they listened long enough.
Their sense of space increased and even shifted with the sound. I found less comments about time shifting and more about not actively thinking about time i.e. one could just “be” in the moment. Some experienced the feeling of being “transported” in time and some did not. If anything, the transporting seemed to have to do a lot with shifting mental imagery triggered by the sound. Being transported from a desert to space to being in a cyclone, but a few did mention being physically transported in their orientation to the room. Though a few found it anxiety invoking, a handful of people found it specifically therapeutic, as if they were undergoing some sort of healing process as they spent time in the space. Some felt they had to consciously use their whole body to listen.
Anonymous Quotes on the Composition:
“In contrast to a visual art gallery, this expo has 7.1 pieces. The context of the visual art lends only partially. You can’t sense more than one painting, sculpture… at a time. Here, you can truly experience the art in context. The environment forces itself on you at all points of perception.”
“I went in without knowing what to expect. Sat and immediately felt transported in space. When I opened my eyes, it didn’t match that the room was so small and the speakers were responsible. Furthermore, great wall of sound, strong soundscape, unless I was standing by a speaker, the sound was surrounding, immersive and enveloping.”
“When I had my eyes open, it didn’t feel so great. When I closed my eyes, I felt more immersed in it. Kinda like being in the depths of space. Some parts were intense and frightening, others were tender and gentle. I liked the movements the sound made forward and backward, one side to the other, massaging my brain and playing with my hair.”
“Because the sound had such a strong sense of movement, I became more sensitized to the space and felt my consciousness/awareness moving through the space, following the sound. The movement created a hyperspace in my imagination.”
“I felt a broad sense of shifting, decentering. And trying to trace, it felt elusive. I felt that some of the high frequency transients and flutters evoked a sense of desire to entrain and elevated my heart rate.”
“It was a unique experience to be moved through visualizations of scenes to a relaxing meditative type of state. You lost sense of time due to the continuity and ever changing sound progression. The variety of sound enticed you to keep listening without regard to time.”
“It made me more attentive to my body than to the space. I felt I consciously had to use my whole body to listen. Experienced a sense of levitation and circular upward motion, between sleeping and waking. I moved between real immersion and struggling with my own thoughts. It was hard to be present but the space felt very dynamic and safe at the same time. At points I heard sounds I recognized and I felt resistant to the intrusion of daily life into magical space.”
“I was aware that I was listening. Even when I listen to music, I’m not always aware of my listening. It made me realize how important awareness of our senses is.”
“Kind of nice. Swirling. Like a slow cylone picking up the world around you & slowly breaking it & smashing the pieces against themselves.. But lonely. And heavy. And with a choo choo train that is going to hit you but then doesn’t & leaves you when you wish it would carry you home.”
In conclusion, this project has allowed me to straddle the lines between art and research. To what extend can sound art be used to study responses to sound in a real life context? I have been able to investigate how the art context can provide an environment where people feel safe to reflect. I hope that in the future I will be able to design these sorts of experiences to facilitate sound research that is not removed from space, site, or social context. This project has also advanced my ideas on spatial composition. What does the sound actually convey? How can I be more intentional in composing, while leaving room to let things evolve naturally? It has made me realize that if well thought out enough in the compositional phase, all of these concepts can be conveyed both abstractly and quite literally through the sound itself. If I am thinking about active listening and I put that into the work, people will sense a heightened awareness of their listening. If I am putting anxious or meditative energy into a piece it will exist in the sound. I am interested in this abstract communicative ability that sound has, and its ability to convey very complex information directly and forwardly, so that I as an artist don’t have to tell someone what to feel, they will be able to find that in the work if they are willing to listen.
Sound can teach us a lot about the substance that exists beyond the visual, and the sense of connection and presence it can provide, connecting us back to more primal, ritualistic, even biological realms of existence, to our environments, to other people and the source of our being. It can be therapeutic, a form of empathy.
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 Voegelin, Salome (2010). “Listening to Noise and Silence: Toward a Philosophy of Sound Art”. London, UK: Continuum International Publishing.
 Zahorik, Pavel (2002), Auditory Display of Sound Source Distance. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.
 Goldman, Jonathan (1989), “Sonic Entrainment”, from Johnathan Goldman’s Healing Sounds. Retrieved March 23 2014, from http://www.healingsounds.com/sonic-entrainment.
[Figure 1] Truax, Barry. (2000) “Acoustic Communication (2nd Edition)” Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO
[Figure 2] Undesired energy forms (system losses). Retrieved April 4 2014, from http://www.emersonindustrial.com/
[Figure 3] EEG Brain Frequency Chart. Retrieved March 23 2014, from http://deepakgoyal1985.blogspot.com/2012/05/explore-brain-waves-potential-of.html
[Figure 4] 7.1 Channel Surround System. Retrieved April 4 2014, from http://4homecontrol.com/glossary#7.1