The Disruptive Nature of Listening

Symposium:


Presentation Title:

  • The Disruptive Nature of Listening

Presenter(s):



Abstract:

  • A true state of listening cannot be acquired by force. The order to listen – LISTEN! we all have heard and experienced it – guarantees a closing off, a turning away, a non-listening, possibly even a permanent disturbance in our once open and trusting listening channels. It is perceived like any sound that annoys, disrupts, hurts, or injures: we cringe, we try to block it out, might fight it, may want to get rid of it, but we will not listen. By its very nature listening is a continual and gentle process of opening. We usually know when we are in that place of perceptual receptivity and we know when we have lost it. Listening is never static, cannot be held on to, and in fact needs to be found again and again. As such, it is disruptive in its nature. Paradoxically, while a grounded and calm state of mind, a sense of safety, peace and relaxation are essential for inspiring perceptual wakefulness and a willingness and desire to open our ears, normal routines, habits and patterns will be disrupted and laid bare in such a process of listening; noises and discomforts inevitably will be noticed, and all kinds of experiences will be stirred and uncovered. Listening in fact implies a preparedness to meet the unpredictable and unplanned, to welcome the unwelcome. How do we reach such a state of listening, why would we want to? Hildegard Westerkamp has lectured on topics of listening, environmental sound and acoustic ecology and has conducted soundscape workshops internationally. By focusing the ears’ attention to details in the acoustic environment, her compositional work draws attention to the act of listening itself and to the inner, hidden spaces of the environment we inhabit. For details check her website. Her music has been commissioned by CBC Radio, Canada Pavilion at Expo ’86, Ars Electronica (Linz), Österreichischer Rundfunk, Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Germany…. She received Honorable Mentions in competitions such as Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, Prix Italia, and the International Competition for Electroacoustic Music in Bourges, as well as a Recommendation for Broadcast from the International Music Council’s 4th International Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music… Her articles have been published in Radio Rethink, Kunstforum, Musicworks, MusikTexte and a variety of books… For an extensive exploration into her compositional work see Andra McCartney’s Sounding Places: Situated Conversations through the Soundscape Work of Hildegard Westerkamp, York University, Toronto, 1999, and in the internet. As part of Vancouver New Music’s yearly season she has coordinated and led Soundwalks for some years since 2003, which in turn inspired the creation of The Vancouver Soundwalk Collective. A founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE), and long-time co-editor of its journal Soundscape,Westerkamp was a researcher for R. Murray Schafer’s World Soundscape Project in the Seventies, and has taught acoustic communication at Simon Fraser University with colleague Barry Truax.

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