Listening to Deep Listening. Reflection on the 1988 Recording and the Lifework of Pauline Oliveros
This article weaves personal reflections upon the 1988 recording by Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis, entitled Deep Listening®️, with a story of Deep Listening, the lifework of Pauline Oliveros, in which the author refers to highlights in the history of as well as presents some of the foundational aspects of the praxis. Throughout this story of Deep Listening appears, in the form of audio and film material, the first track of the Deep Listening recording, “Lear”; Pauline Oliveros herself, leading a Deep Listening Session Masterclass during the Sonic Acts Festival XIV in Amsterdam in February 2012; and two examples of practitioners of Deep Listening who present and comment upon their work and approach. The focus of this article seeks to remain close to a “doing of”: a bodymind engagement with listening, responding, and creating in a way that reflects the practice of Deep Listening. A type of receptive listening, an inner opening to and following of the movements of the body-with-sound encounter, is presented here as “somatic listening.”
SEVEN METAPHORS FOR (MUSIC) LISTENING: DRAMaTIC
Joshua Banks Mailman
This essay probes the nature of listening by refusing to pin it down to a single essence. The epistemological value of metaphor is explained in terms of the cognitive metaphor and embodied mind theories of Lakoff and Johnson as well as the philosophies of Rorty and Fiumara. Then the various natures of listening are explained via seven metaphors: (1) Digestion, (2) Recording, (3) Adaptation, (4) Meditation, (5) Transport, (6) Improvisation, and (7) Computation. As a positive example, this set of metaphors promotes recognition of the inherent plurality of listening by staking out distinct facets which cannot be reduced to one another. This irreducibility is made more vivid and conceptually manageable by associating each of these facets with more concrete activities that are literally irreducible, or indeed seemingly unrelated. Moreover, some of these metaphors suggest the complementary and sometimes interdependent nature of diverse aspects of listening.
Ethics of Listening
Recently, I was away, in another country. It looked and sounded not unlike this one, with streets, trees, houses, people and their dogs. The people had eyes, ears and mouths, just like us. They looked, listened and spoke. But since I could not recognize what I heard in the acoustic environment around me from the way they talked about it, I had to assume that they heard it all very differently.
Instead of considering the source or quality of a sound, its location and distance or even its reason, they spoke in terms of action only. Theirs was not a discussion of “what was being done,” but was a “being done,” doing, always now, without defining a doing subject nor arriving at a resulting object. They did not comment on what made a specific sound, but spoke making the sound. Their words phrased the particular and focused narration of doing heard, becoming another heard doing. The understanding reached did not substantiate nor position the heard, instead it beckoned movement; sonic gestures held momentarily and precariously in my ears as an idea of the heard, whose source had by that time become irrelevant, and whose destination was my own sound, which in turn did not translate the heard but became another sonic thing altogether - the semantic substance of doing conveyed to my listener.
The Production of Listening: on Biopolitical Sound and the Commonplaces of Aurality
Expression and listening imply a complex interface. Neither can be conceptualized without the movement of intention and receptivity implied by their conjunction. Yet nothing is less certain, since conjunction requires an intermediary space, where a relationship may be formed in common or else violently impelled. This space – of listening and making oneself heard – is fundamentally political, and this essay explores its key forms in the age of biopolitics and neoliberalism. It is examined via artistic evocations of sonic production and listening in works by André Kertész, Iannis Xenakis and Federico Fellini. Then it is analyzed through two major contemporary paradigms of listening: the institutional network where sound art continues to stake out territory; and the private auditory ‘bubble’ generated by the mobile personal audio-player. Finally, in work by Pedro Almodóvar, a revolutionary approach to expression is found that acknowledges the common space of listening on which it depends
Voice, Narrative, Place: Listening to Stories
Sound art is rarely associated with storytelling. While it is widely recognised that sound is deeply connected to narrative and imagery (e.g. Emmerson 1986; Wishart 1996), it is sound’s relationship to physical space that is often referred to in order to define this medium [or: that often defines this connection]. While this aspect of sound is important, I argue that the combination of sound and oral storytelling engages the listener’s imagination with the unseen and indefinable qualities of sound through its invisible dialogue with our mind. In addition, when this combination is applied to specific locations or sites, this listening experience profoundly contributes to our construction of ‘place’.
Therefore, this article attempts to open up a discussion of the relationship between sound, stories and place, using examples of sound art pieces that explore the listening potentials of this combination within site-specific audio works. Through voice and sound, these works tell stories of and/or in place, referred to in this paper as site-specific stories. These stories require the listener to engage creatively with their narratives and, therefore, induce a productive listening state. Three main factors that affect this listening process are discussed;  the environment or listening place;  the storyteller or disembodied voice; and  the inner voice. Finally, this article concludes that further analysis and discussion of oral storytelling within sound art and its relationship to site is needed in order to understand the productive listening potentials of this combination, which shape our surrounding environments.
AFFECTIVE LISTENING: China’s Experimental Music and Sound Art Practice
Adel Wang Jing
When we listen affectively, we listen with and to our bodies. The ear-becoming-body. When a sound does not carry any identifiable, decodable, or communicative message, it affects the listening body in the way touching does. Sound touches the listening body, causing concretely felt intensities before the mind knows. Affective listening is a commitment to forces, intensities and becoming. One listens to the Qi or “haecceities” of sound, which are only later reduced and signified as harmony, melody, or emotions (Cox 2011; Deleuze and Guattari 1987; Massumi 2002). Affective listening resembles Buddhist meditation in that both emphasize the practice of Qi (of body-mind-soul) rather than the mind alone, and both lead to self-transforming rather than self-transcending. In the context of Chinese experimental music and sound art practice, affective listening functions as the cultivation of the self, aspiring to the state of selflessness. This paper presents the initial stage of a larger project to formulate the model of “affective listening” as a mode afforded by China’s free improvisation and experimental music practices.
Ways of Listening and Modes of Being: Electroacoustic Auditory Display
Auditory display is concerned with the use of non-speech sound to communicate information. If the term seems at first oxymoronic, then consider auditory display as an activity of perceptualization, that is, the process of making perceptible to humans aspects or features of a given data set or system. Most commonly this is done using visual representations (which process we call visualization) but it is not limited to the visual channel, and recent years have witnessed the increased use of auditory representations in the production of tools for exploring data. By way of semiotics and an aesthetic perspective shift, this article posits that auditory display may be considered a form of organized sound and explores the listening experience in this context.
In 2005 Dutch musicologist, composer, and writer Elmer Schönberger gave the Huizinga lecture entitled ‘Het Grote Luisteren – reikhalzen naar muziek’ [The Large Listening – yearning for music]. It is a passionate plea for a disinterested, disengaged listening to ‘real’ music, music as an autonomous art form, and explicitly opposed to popular music with its connection to ‘easy’ or consumptive listening. With great enthusiasm, Schönberger joins the heritage of Eduard Hanslick and his ‘tönend bewegte Formen’ [tonally moving forms] and Peter Kivy’s ‘music alone’. He condescendingly refers to the late 18th century, the only period in Western history in which the utmost refinement and the greatest music-technical complexity had merged with the popular virtues of street songs: the Mozart operas and Haydn symphonies.
Schönberger’s Large Listening is a structural listening to high art that has, obviously, disconnected itself from socio-historical circumstances. Large Listening is not only a return to the basic material of music, to the tones themselves, but also requires understanding of the structural, architectural, and expressive richness of this ‘music alone’. Large Listening is listening to Webern, Stravinsky, Bach, Purcell, and Bruckner instead of Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ (all examples are taken from Schönberger’s lecture).
Modes of Music Listening and Modes of Subjectivity in Everyday Life
Technologically mediated solitary listening now constitutes the prevalent mode of musical engagement in the Industrialized West. Music is heard in a variety of real-world contexts, and qualities of subjective experience might similarly be expected to be wide-ranging. Yet though much is known about function (music as a behavioral resource) less research has focused on ways in which music mediates consciousness. This essay critiques conceptualizations of music listening in extant literature and explores how listening to music in daily life both informs and reflects subjectivity.
Psychological and musicological literature on music listening commonly distinguishes between autonomous and heteronomous ways of listening, associating the former with unusual and the latter with mundane, habitual listening scenarios. Empirical findings from my research, which used ethnographic methods to tap qualities of subjective experience, indicate that attentive and diffused listening do not map neatly onto 'special' and 'ordinary' contexts and that a distributed, fluctuating attentional awareness and multimodal focus are central to many experiences of hearing music.