Vertizontal Hearing (Up & Down, I then II) Christopher Haworth

Vertizontal Hearing (Up & Down, I then II) is based around my research into two theories of audition with roots in gestalt psychology: the so-called ‘precedence effect’, which describes how the brain resolves conflict for ‘precedence’ when sound arrives at the ears via multiple reflected paths; and ‘stream segregation’, a theory that attempts to describe how the higher centres in the brain parse ‘auditory scenes’ into separate sound sources. The piece explores areas where competition arises between different possible attributions.

In the case of the precedence effect (explored in movement I), this is articulated via the listener’s position in space relative to the loudspeakers. Manipulation of the arrival times of identical sounds presented via different loudspeakers means that each member of the audience will be in the ‘sweet spot’ at a slightly different time. When heard in situ the spatialisation effect is subtly different to conventional amplitude panning.

In the case of stream segregation (explored in movement II) there are a number of determinate and indeterminate factors which influence what is heard. Comprised of an endlessly descending/ascending sequence of arpeggiated tritones whose spectra corresponds to that described in Roger Shepardʼs famous 1964 article [1], up to eight different patterns can be discerned. Which one is listened to and itʼs motional direction depends upon voluntary factors, such as ones intentional focus and position in the room; as well as involuntary ones, such as language, range of voice and handedness [2]. The result is a kind of perceptually informed chaos, as the listener finds themselves automatically following patterns within what is an essentially static block of sound. Compositional decisions imposed from outside (changes, introduction of additional sounds etc.) invariably jar with the listenerʼs chosen pattern, interrupting one’s attentional focus. At these moments one ʻloses ones placeʼ in the unfolding stream, and hears the ascending/descending tones, not as pattern or structure, but as disinformation or noise.

  1. Shepard, Roger N. 2005. “Circularity in Judgments of Relative Pitch.” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 36 (12) (July 20): 2346—2353.
  2. Deutsch, Diana. 1991. “The Tritone Paradox: An Influence of Language on Music Perception.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 8 (4) (July): 335—347.
  • Year of composition: 2012
  • Genre: Electroacoustics
  • Format: Fixed media
  • Software used: Max/MSP+Gen, Reaper
  • Duration of the submitted work: 13:58
  • Production: University
  • Disc publication: N/A

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