Re: Fwd: from Eliot who ...

Subject: Re: Fwd: from Eliot who ...
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Fri Feb 04 2005 - 00:04:19 EST

>EH wrote:
>... I personally have no real interest in "multi-channel"
>productions. If you happen to dig this that's ok, we can agree to be
>bored by each other's point of view.

I have a number of specific interests that join here, a central one
being the way the mind processes sounds in integration and
segregation. Multi-speaker systems are almost ideal for this kind of

I have a number of ear-training studies that place a number of sounds
in different speakers. At first the speakers are arranged in a
spatial pattern, and are slowly moved closer together so that
(possibly) at some point, the segregated quality becomes an
integrated quality. (The reverse procedure is also possible.)

My first application in this will be with four (or more) part
harmonic dictation where each voice can be heard from a separate
speaker to be able to learn how to clearly hear individual parts, and
the whole.

An extension of this is the use of synthesized or concrete sounds
that integrate when the speakers are in close proximity, but will
segregate when the speakers are apart.

The human body and perceptual system are highly refined in relation
to directional discrimination, under good conditions, the
discrimination of horizontal directionality can be as small as 4

In September one of your "philosophical probes" was why composers
would want to use multi-speaker systems, and having taken a few
months to consider your question, I think I have started on the
answer in the previous paragraph.

The parallel could be drawn to why music has "melody" (pitch
variation and patterns), and it seems that the brain is set up to
deal with these things, and humans often do what the brain is good
at, and vice versa.

>You ought to be teaching your students, Kevin, why, despite some
>technical problems you see, Cardiff's piece is a GOOD example of
>something that can compel the interest of a diverse audience in a
>way that "listen to this sound" type music apparently doesn't.

I would have liked the choir to sing in tune and the producer to
figure out what kind of sonic ambience(s) was/were going to be
present. I prefer success to failure.

The use of a cathedral setting for the recording was "interesting",
but then the mics got turned off after the singer(s) sang their part.
Was this Cardiff's decision? Was it a production decision taken after
the recording when the producer realized the acoustical problems
created by working in a reverberant environment?

I too felt that the work was over over-conceptualized and under
materialized, but that may have been what it was about, in which
case, a lot of money could have been put into other projects if there
had been even more conceptualization and a great deal less

If a sound artist proposed the equivalent quality of production
control and "conceptualization" within the visual arts community, I
don't think they would get through the door.

Why can visual artists be raised in stature for this quality of sonic art?

>>... whereas you only wish to see it as an expression of
>>technological excellence...

My critique begins with the failure of the musical presentation, made
more evident by the method of presentation, and the nature of the
presentation environment. There were also a number of technical
issues that I feel needed to be addressed before a microphone was set

>>Quite the opposite! The technology, IMV, should have been the
>>invisible feature of the piece rather than the "raison d'etre".
>I disagree -- technology is invisble to almost everyone, since it
>tends to work.

And to my ears in this situation, neither the musical performance,
nor the technology "worked"

>If art is about perception, or, as my favorite russian formalist
>crittc said, about "extending" perception, then invisibility of
>anything is the enemy.

Perhaps art is about the perception of illusion.



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