Re: Aural Training

Subject: Re: Aural Training
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Fri Aug 19 2005 - 23:32:22 EDT

Bill brings up a number of important points, notably those related to
expansion of hearing which in my experience needs a wide base on
which to be built.

For a long time I had tried to work with Our Murray Schaffer's books,
in fact assigning them to classes, but found that I had a problem ...
the books and the projects were fine for one, two or three classes,
but I was doing 13, 26 or 52 classes and something of greater breadth
and depth was needed for the development of an aural discipline, and
I have come to feel that for 'most students', it is about aural

This is not about the 10 - 15% who enter the classes with 'golden
ears'. For me, education is not about the top 20% of the class, but
rather about the next 80%.

And the development of am aural discipline for me has meant the
description of a wide area of study, from repertoire to science to
aesthetics and philosophy.

The description / analysis of 'sound patterns' is contextual, not
absolute. There are many examples of the impact of culture in
defining where boundaries are, one well known example being the
phoneme that resides between the letters /l/ and /r/ which exists in
Japanese, but not in english, which is why many native english
speakers think that native japanese speakers reverse the /l/ and /r/
sounds, while in fact the problem is as much in the perception as in
the production.

In traditional ear-training, some broad categories are created, and
they will often encompass several types of sounds that will later be
differentiated. For example: winds > woodwinds > clarinet > chalumeau

In ea, there are many "intuitive" (sic) categories but, IME, there is
no widely accepted standard 'morphological principles', or developed
guidelines for what these principles would look like.

As I have come to see it, part of the problem is that the analytic
approach has to a meta-sonic one; there is the need to be able to use
similar and/or parallel tools to analyze / describe a (text-based)
radio broadcast (which is ea, see Glenn Gould), Silver Apples of the
Moon and Rob Wright's Wind Chime Marimba .

Are there common elements? What are some of them?

The 'phonological' elements may be small in number, or even fixed (as
in the last two examples), and in order to indicate that they are
small in number the analytic concept of sonic identity (and
constancy) needs to be introduced and developed.

One major way in which this concept differs from "music" ear-training
is that while in 'music', this concept of identity and transformation
occurs almost only at the gestural level of the work -- a piano sound
does not transform through the progress of the composition, and its
ability to transform is limited.

Compare this to the matter in ea of the transformation of (for
example) a simple word. Pitch shifting, speeding up, slowing down,
spectral transformation through filters and spectral modulation
devices, added processing (dynamic and spectral compression /
expansion), reverberation, time processing (delay lines, reverbs etc
etc). These are possibilities that the student will need to
experience through the development of production skills.

And ea doesn't have a widely-based notational system that allows for
the 'viewing' / abstraction of concepts (eg as staff notation allows
for in traditional ear-training). This means that the core nature of
the ear-training discipline is based around time, and the perceptual
studies required to develop the ear.

For some students 'simple' exposure to these ideas will be enough to
launch them, but most students (IME) have needed a relatively
progressively structured program. The deep end of the swimming pool
is not where to start.

In recent work, I have aimed to take a work or a section of a work
and work through one (or two) specific concepts at a time. This does
not produce a 'wide' analysis, but allows the in-depth study of one
or two specific clearly defined and de-limited techniques. At the end
of last year I spent about 6 hours of class time on about 4 or 5
minutes of Kontakte, and the class (after 20 weeks of other work) was
ready to start to tackle these short sections in some detail and
depth. They were done almost entirely only by ear, the previous weeks
having often been aided by spectrograms and amplitude time lines.

There is more and as this (academic) year progresses, I hope to be
able to start posting ideas (and some class notes) on a web page for



PS I have found Pierre Schaffer's conception of sound to be of
minimal use in extended study -- a good quick introduction but not a
solid basis for refined aural development.

At 02:14 +0100 2005/08/20, bill thompson wrote:
>hi diego,
>GOOD! it's time that students were exposed to more then relative
>pitch exercises (although i think they're beneficial just not where
>the training should end.)
>when i've sat in as a lecturer for ear training classes i've
>combined exercises for both. for the 'non-traditional' approach, i
>borrowed ideas from r murray schaffer's books such as ear cleaning,
>the composer in the classroom, and the new soundscape as well as
>ideas from pauline oliveros who has similar exercises (though i'm
>not sure where they're available on the web/print) ... combining
>this with a discussion of pierre schaffer's ideas about the 'sound
>object' and using simple examples like a looped recording and asking
>students to describe anything new they hear as the loop continues.
>my favorite exercise (from a torturers point of view) was having a
>room full of first years try to listen to the sounds in the
>classroom for 10 minutes and to write everything down. they weren't
>allowed to check
>the time either. i've never seen so many kids squirm in my life!
>lol. and although some of them undoubtedly thought i was crazy, one
>student told me later she had started listening to everything in a
>new way, the street outside her window, the refrigerator, etc. so
>one converted, 49 to go :)
>for a more technical approach, i also have the golden ears cd set by
>dave moulton, though i must confess i haven't cracked it open
>yet...supposed to have a very positive effect and is geared towards
>listening in a mastering (studio) context.
>good luck..please share any ideas you come across as i think this is
>probably the most important and fundamental aspect to music/sound
>art that we can expose students to.
>--- mua07 <> wrote:
>> I would like to include some form of aural training
>> in the first year of our
>> Music Technology course. So far we have covered this
>> through reflection upon
>> characteristics of the works in the listening
>> excercises, and through various
>> coimments during tutorials, but I wanted to try to
>> do something more specific.
>> I want students to acquire since early on an
>> inquisitive and attentive
>> attitude towards 'sound', something most of them
>> seem to lack.
>> At the moment there is a lot of exeprience, reserach
>> and resources oriented
>> towards aural training for musicians (pitch,
>> intervals, harmony, rhythm).
>> I was looking for an ear training a bit more
>> organic, focussed on the
>> phenomenological properties of sound, with an
>> approach from the viewpoint of
>> an electroacoustician or studio producer.
> >
> > Any ideas anybody? Any experiences? Any suggestions?
> > Any useful resources you
> > can reccomend?
> >
> > Thanks in anticipation
> > Diego Garro
> >
> > ============================================
>> Diego Garro
>> Keele University
>> School of Humanities - Music
> >
>"The more you think about things the weirder they seem." -Calvin
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