Modes of Listening

distracted listening / sensory overload (SOOA, PAYTON, MARIA, JIAYING)

John OswaldPlexure (1993) (X, Y, Z)

Auditory Branding only requires a split-second for identification: in dense acoustic environments you need to grab your listener’s attention quickly before s/he moves on to another stimulus. TIMBRE (the color of a particular sound) is especially important as less time is required for identification.

Erik Satie—”Furniture Music” (musique d’ameublement); in the early 20th ct. listeners still identified music with embodied performers, such that background music with live players didn’t work for Satie. The attendees stopped talking to listen to the musicians perform, completely defeating the purpose of “wallpaper music”, “heard but not listened to.” If Satie had piped in background music via speakers some 20 years later, the result might have been different (and somewhat akin to Muzak).

the MALL environment: distraction can be productive: to suddenly hear what is usually out of earshot; to make new connections between signals that usually stay separate; mishearing creates new points of contact.

SCHIZOPHONIA: the separation of a sound from its source on both spatial and temporal levels (ALL sound is schizophonic as no sound is where it appears to be; but this term refers mainly to the electronic reproduction of sound).

auditory niching (cf. Bernie Krause) (SARA D.G., SAM, ZIXIN)

species have evolved their sounds to find open space in the audio ecosystem, which is why so many frequencies are occupied
see Krause’s work on The Great Animal Orchestra

niching can be FREQUENTIAL (e.g. calling a child in a high voice to cut through the noise; street musicians choosing sites with suitable acoustics so as to amplify their performance)

or TEMPORAL (e.g. speaking in the gaps when noise is minimized – such as on a construction site)

pareidolic listening (cf. pareidolia / apophenia) (CARLIE, HAZEL, SARAH)

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP): hearing the “voices of the dead” in noise (after being “primed” or conditioned to hear particular words, one magically hears those very words!)

EVP works closely with the EFFERENT auditory network (brain—>ear), which is partially tasked with isolating signals from noise.

prosthetic listening (FRANK, MARCIA, DANJING)

Christina KubischWave Catcher (listening to the infra-sounds of technology with electromagnetic induction headphones)

Jessica ThompsonWalking Machine (2003)

Doppler Labs’ HEAR ONE earbuds + The Quest to Build a Computer for Your Ears

The Soundbite Hearing Aid!!!

eavesdropping (CHRISTINA, RON, GUOLIN)

NSA “listening in” often doesn’t involve acoustic signals at all, but metadata!

SHAZAM doesn’t listen in any conventionally human sense, but compares digital information and metadata to find appropriate song matches.

The Amazon Echo (caveat emptor!)

headspace listening (inner monologue) / auditory hallucination (JAKE, JAMES, JESSICA)

Different types: musical imagery (earworms: stuck tunes repeating on their own); subvocal speech (inner monologue); inner listening (playing a tune back in your mind)

Jaynes’ theory of the Bicameral Mind: Before consciousness was understood (and the brain hemispheres were separate), voices inside your head were attributed (according to the theory) to external agents, such as Gods.

The Bicameral Mind and its application in Westworld.

IMPORTANT: ALL PERCEPTION IS EXTRASENSORY! (as it always involves the brain’s modulation and mutation of sensory information – both AFFERENT and EFFERENT systems are always operating together, at all times).

Edgar Allen POE: The Tell-Tale Heart (1843): extreme anxiety induces the illusion of a heart beating beneath the floor boards!

RELEASE HALLUCINATIONS: When signals from the outside are constrained (when one becomes deaf, for example), the brain compensates by producing release hallucinations that sound as if from an external source.

NEW MODES (from last year)

imaginative (KEVIN): a form of auditory hallucination in which thinking of a sound conjures it into existence (in your mind)

morpheus (JESSLYN): listening to sounds of the “outside” world as they seep into the dream-world

conundrum (ASRA):

enforced (SABRINA):

brisk (HELEN): listening in an overstimulating environment for important cues

intimate (NICOLE): listening to the sound of a person’s voice through their bone structure

crescendo (TINA): rapid transition from a sparse sonic environment to a dense, overwhelming environment

presumptuous (CASSANDRA): listening with an interpretation already in mind

outlook (JACQUELINE): listening within a particular mood alters the experience

dual (LUISA): noticing particular acoustic signals (hearing your name mentioned) in the background of a scene, despite not paying attention to them

single sound (BREANNA): when an overload of sounds is occurring, but you are able to single out something specific among the white noise to the point where the rest fades into the background and you don’t hear it anymore.


homophonic listening

Dissonance / Confusion between a word’s visual appearance and its sound.

Read this in French and listen to what it sounds like (clue: nursery rhyme).

How English sounds to non-English speakers.


reduced listening (cf. Schaeffer / Chion) AND here

causal listening (cf. Chion) AND here

semantic listening (cf. Chion) AND here

intentional listening (listening to particular signals rather than others)

structural listening

associative (adjacent) listening

entrainment and auditory latching

half-state listening (liminal listening) between conscious and unconscious mind

corporeal listening (self-diagnostic) (auscultation)

genre-based listening

human echolocation / acoustic wayfinding (cf. Ben Underwood) / animal echolocation

background listening (cf. Muzak / ambient music)

infrasonic / subsonic listening (cf. Christina Kubisch)

interpellation AND here (search for interpellation on the page)