Leonardo Music Journal Volume 26, 2016

Leonardo Music Journal (LMJ) is an annual publication edited by Leonardo/the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, and published by the MIT Press.

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Introduction: Lend Me Your Ears! Sound and Reception

by Nicolas Collins


Loudspeaker Listening: Tabula Rasa or Augmented Reality

by David Prior

ABSTRACT: Recent developments in virtual and augmented reality technology have stimulated renewed interest in the role of sound and music in these domains. In this article loudspeakers, and the spaces used to listen to them, will be discussed with reference both to the dominant media that have influenced their evolution and in light of emerging media—particularly in augmented reality—which value very different audio-spatial relationships.

Listen to the Absent: Binaural Inquiry in Auditive Spatial Perception

by Jeroen de Vos

ABSTRACT: If space can be perceived through sound, then recording and playback techniques allow capturing a unique spatial moment for later retrieval. The notion of spectrality as the invisible visible can be used to explain the embodiment of an auditive momentum in a space that is ultimately absent. This empirical study presents the results of five structured interviews in which interviewees are confronted with three binaural spatial recordings to reflect on the perception of dwelling in a spectral space: a space that is not there.

Let Me Whisper in Your Earbud: Curating Sound for Ubiquitous Tiny Speakers

by Miriama Young

ABSTRACT: In the contemporary moment, the typical sonic experience is solitary and portable—occurring through headphones, mobile phone, tablet, watch, laptop or in the automobile. This article evaluates some of the possibilities and constraints of producing music for Pod-dissemination.

Some Principles of Visual Design for Computer Music

by Ge Wang

ABSTRACT: This article presents observations pertaining to expressive visual design for computer music, focusing in particular on real-time integration of graphics and audio. The author describes specific projects as examples supporting a set of design principles that range from “user oriented” to “aesthetic” and other observations. Examples include audio visualization, game-like interfaces, and mobile musical instruments.

Music Listening Activities in the Digital Age: An Act of Cultural Participation through Adequate Music

by Raphaël Nowak

ABSTRACT: This article discusses how the digital age of music technologies has contributed to the transformation of the activities of music listening, highlighting cultural participation in distinct worlds through “adequate music.”

From Music to Big Music: Listening in the Age of Big Data

by Marinos Koutsomichalis

ABSTRACT: Following a series of technological breakthroughs and the proliferation of new, cloud-based media, listening in the 21st century has become dynamic, fragmented, interactive and distributed. Contemporary audiences are typically expected to traverse (big) music databases and, employing several overlapping interfaces, to resynthesize, rather than to merely access, content. On this construal, new ways of both experiencing and thinking about music have been laid out. This article attempts to sketch the “big music” phenomenon, discussing its genesis, outlining its implications and, finally, suggesting a typology for the classification of its carrier media.

Listening to the Promise of a Better You: Considering the Instructional Record

by Tim J. Anderson

ABSTRACT: While this article makes explicit connections with forms such as karaoke, it also offers insight into other areas of sonic instruction such as dance, exercise and gaming. More important, it begins to develop an explicit theoretical foothold on questions of record production and reception where the listener is conceived in both the form of the recording and its accompanying narratives by focusing on how many of these instructional objects are designed around specific questions of record production and their accompanying paratextual elements.

Hearing Music with the Ears of a Composer

by Maura Bosch

ABSTRACT: The author, a composer, compares the experience of composing music to the experience of “just” listening and finds the point where these two meet: in the moment of hearing a new sound. The author provides examples as described by other composers and finds a consistency in the way they recall their experiences. Their stories indicate the direction for further study of this rare but highly formative type of musical experience.

Distributed Listening in Electroacoustic Improvisation

by Doug Van Nort

ABSTRACT: This article considers the distributed role that listening plays for both performer and audience in the process of discovering musical meaning in the context of electroacoustic improvisation through examination of particular emergent practices.

Sonic Art as Critique of the Listening Act

by Camille Robinson

ABSTRACT: In this article, the author describes an approach to structuring sonic art as a critique of listening and as stimulus for critical reflection on listening, which was devised for the project Listening Art: Making Sonic Artworks that Critique Listening. Presented are an overview of the project’s methodology—integrating schema theory, immanent critique and heuristic research methods into the creative process—and discussion of two artworks and findings.

Ear Training, SolfÈge and Sound Education

by Cathy L. Cox

ABSTRACT: Motivated by Marshall McLuhan’s suggestion that advances in technology serve to alter sense perceptions, and that it is the role of artists to be aware of such changes, the author explores intersections and contrasts among five different approaches to the subject and practice of ear training in the context of sound recording technology, with attention to how these approaches serve to expand and challenge traditional ear training pedagogy and what these changes to tradition reveal about how sound recording technology has altered our sense perceptions.

Listening to Listening Machines: On Contemporary Sonic Media Critique

by A. Vandsø

ABSTRACT: “The tape recorder . . . creates above all new conditions of observations,” Pierre Schaeffer writes. This article picks up the theme of the link between listening and technology and asks how contemporary sound artworks reflect the relation between technology and perception. It suggests that many contemporary sound artworks explore the way digital culture conditions our listening acts. Based on a tentative analysis including works by Mihara et al., Zorio, Ikeda and Skjødt, the article argues that art lets us experience not only sound but also technological mediation, providing insight into how in the current digital culture we are constantly sharing our perception of the environment with nonhuman listening machines.

Lo-fi Listening as Active Reception

by Elizabeth Newton

ABSTRACT: Literature on sound reproduction is largely concerned with “high-fidelity” recording, despite a multiplicity of modes of recording in practice throughout history. As a result, histories of listening have often tacitly privileged standards of appreciation rooted in high-fidelity culture. In an attempt to expand our conception of different listening styles, the author draws attention to latent histories of low-fidelity listening, positing “lo-fi” as a receptive mode that appreciates amateur and failed musical performances, aestheticizes noise in soundscapes and encourages listeners to participate in the construction of sonic experience at the time of playback.

Average Is the New Loudest

by Johannes Mulder

ABSTRACT: This article discusses new sound pressure level (SPL) measurement strategies in the context of live music. A brief overview of the introduction of loudness normalization in broadcast audio engineering precedes a discussion of using average sound levels in measurements at concerts. The article closes with a short analysis of the implications of these developments for the notion of agency in the socio-technical domain of audio production.

The Thing about Microphones

by Mark Peter Wright

ABSTRACT: This article examines the microphone and its connective political and nonhuman ecologies. A media archaeological excavation of Leon Theremin’s role in the development of a specific bugging device (“The Thing”) facilitates discussion throughout. Situating the microphone within a networked history of power relations and ethical consequences, the author draws upon contexts of surveillance, parasites and horror in order to ask whether microphones are agential actors and, if so, what the consequences might be.

Unsound Sound: On the Ontology of Sound in the Digital Age

by Martin Knakkergaard

ABSTRACT: This article discusses the change in premise that digitally produced sound brings about and how digital technologies more generally have changed our relationship to the musical artifact, not simply in degree but in kind. It demonstrates how our acoustical conceptions are thoroughly challenged by the digital production of sound and, by questioning the ontological basis for digital sound, turns our understanding of the core term substance upside down.

A Temporal Basis for Acousmatic Rhythm

by James Andean

ABSTRACT: In an attempt to begin to redress the relative lack of literature focused on rhythm in acousmatic music, this article is intended as a brief look at the acousmatic perspective on rhythm. The article begins with a quick overview of discussion around rhythm in electroacoustic music in general, then contrasts this with some of Pierre Schaeffer’s views on rhythm and finally compares the perceptual temporal levels identified by Schaeffer with similar levels drawn from electroacoustic music, contemporary music and cognitive psychology.

The Cowboy Junkies Realism Test

by Paul David Aikenhead

ABSTRACT: This short article examines how the band Cowboy Junkies challenged consumer listening habits and sonic expectations during the late 1980s with sound recording techniques steeped in realism.

The Listening Laboratory: On Playful Practice and Listening Machines

by Abby Aresty

ABSTRACT: The author describes a playful, interactive project for listening humans and listening machines.

Wiring the Ear: Instrumentality and Aural Primacy in and after David Tudor’s Unstable Circuits

by Mat Dalgleish

ABSTRACT: The author discusses how the live electronics of David Tudor destabilize notions of instrumental learning and mastery, with a shift from physical to aural skills.

From You to Me and Back Again: Interdependent Listening and the Relational Aesthetics of Sound

by Julian Day

ABSTRACT: This article outlines a mode of contemporary performance based on “interdependent listening.” Interdependent listening involves creating performative feedback loops in which players respond directly to the sounds they hear others make. Most ensembles deploy such listening to some extent; however, the distinction between general ensemble playing and interdependent listening is structural, describing situations in which the interdependence generates the content. This socially driven approach can be observed historically in works by Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew and Pauline Oliveros and underpins recent works by the author of this article, particularly within the project Super Critical Mass. In Super Critical Mass events, temporary communities use homogeneous sound sources to create works whose structures evolve from the performers’ interconnections.

The Happy Valley Band: Creative (Mis)Transcription

by David Kant

ABSTRACT: In the author’s work as a composer, he explores how state-of-the-art digital sound analysis can change how we listen to music. The Happy Valley Band (HVB) is a product of this exploration and encompasses a repertoire of microtonal deconstructions of pop songs, an open-source software suite and a dedicated performing ensemble. This article documents the author’s experience and artistic practice within this project—a process of translation between digital analysis, human listening and written notation, in which a machine-learning algorithm is trained to hear pop songs and the results of the machine-learning process are transcribed into musical notation and performed by instrumentalists.

Teaching Cage’s “Silent Piece”

by James Wierzbicki

ABSTRACT: This brief article summarizes the results not only of several years’ worth of classroom performances and follow-up discussions of John Cage’s “silent piece”—commonly known as 4’33”—but also of students’ usually frustrated efforts to perform the piece in private.

Soundmaps as I-docs? Modes of Interactivity for Storytelling with Sound

by Claudia Holanda, Pedro Rebelo and André Paz

ABSTRACT: Soundmaps derive an undeniable, often originary, importance from cartographical representation. However, this article proposes to consider soundmaps through a narrative perspective, drawing on from the field of interactive documentaries. Like soundmaps, interactive documentaries deal with issues of engagement, participation and interaction. In this sense, and according to Sandra Gaudenzi’s concepts, this article presents an analysis of more than 40 soundmaps focused on their modes of interaction.

Listening in the Rose Garden

by Hugh Livingston

ABSTRACT: As sound art finds its presence in public space, sound art in outdoor space is analyzed for potential modalities of new listening experience. In this paper the author proposes an energy map for understanding trajectory of experience and musical form. The author references theories of garden motility, temporality and site from landscape design, with ideas of how introduced sound shapes experience.

Wolf Listeners: An Introduction to the Acoustemological Politics and Poetics of Isle Royale National Park
by Erik DeLuca

ABSTRACT: Listening to wolf howls as both material object and socially constructed metaphor highlights the contested relationship between nature and culture. The author conducted field research on Isle Royale National Park from 2011 to 2015, from which data he offers a narrative wherein citizen-scientists who listen for the howl literally “lend their ears” to a wolf biologist who has led the longest continuous predator-prey study in the world. The theoretical framework of this essay extends acoustic ecology, first theorized by R. Murray Schafer, to include environmental history and cultural theory, which problematizes definitions of “nature” and “natural.” Ultimately, this introduction describes a nuanced form of participatory, situational environmental music that plays out in the everyday lives of those listening on this remote, roadless island on Lake Superior.

Skirmish at the Oasis: On Sonic Disobedience by Michael Nardone

ABSTRACT: In this article the author theorizes how the idea of a sonic avant-garde resounds today. Focused on technics of noise and site specificity, the author describes the sounds and sites of the Idle No More round dance interventions of the winter of 2012–2013 and hears these protests via the dissonant transmission of the sonic practices and geographical-racial theories of the historical avant-garde.

Stuart Marshall’s Idiophonics by Peter Todd

ABSTRACT: Artist, educator and film- and video-maker Stuart Marshall (1949–1993) was an important link between the American experimental music of the 1970s and the British visual arts scene of the same epoch. The author looks at one of Marshall’s works, Idiophonics (a.k.a. Heterophonics), and offers thoughts on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its presentation in London and Newcastle in 1976.


LMJ26 Audio Tracklist
Sonic Commentary: All Ears

by Bill Bahng Boyer

Notes on LMJ26 audio tracks by Jen Reimer and Max Stein; Sarah Hennies; Maile Colbert and Rui Costa; Gerard Gormley; Christopher Haworth; Jacob Kirkegaard; Yvon Bonenfant and Cox Ring; and Tomomi Adachi and Jennifer Walshe.

2016 Leonardo and Leonardo Music Journal Author Index

Leonardo Network News

About the Cover

Super Critical Mass (© Julian Day and Luke Jaaniste), Voice Field (2012), delegated performance with vocalists from Manchester, U.K., Manchester Cathedral, FutureEverything Festival. (Photo: Joanna Krolicka)

Audio and more online!

See mitpressjournals.org/toc/lmj/-/26 for supplemental files (such as audio, video and additional papers) related to LMJ26 and its Audio Companion.

Updated 8 December 2016