1. In search of the sound object (Part 1 of 2)
In this first chapter we see Chion providing us with a variety of concepts that firstly outline some of the characteristics of sounds before leading us towards an understanding of the state of reduced listening. We’ve discussed these concepts to hopefully provide further understanding of them and how they apply to the larger field of listening and thinking about sound. We’ve also included any questions we have that have arisen from our discussion of Chion’s text.
Acousmatic – a noise which is heard without the causes from which it originates being seen
Challenging because of the previous use and definition of acoustic from a musical perspective. By removing the sound from it’s source, you can listen repetitively and project your imagination onto the sound itself to form meaning. Acousmatic is about the listener and their experience, not what created the sound. Acousmatic occurs at the point at the listener and is automatically subjective. Chion is asking not how is the sound made, but rather how is it perceived.
Physical Signal – …sound as an energetic phenomenon acting in the physical world…existing independently of any listener…
Sound as independent from sounds conceived by a listener. This relates to the science of sounds and how they exist without the listener. Chion suggests that the physical signal exists in space and if it is heard by a listener, it allows him / her to then hear a sound object (discussed later).
Correlations – … the relationship between the physical signal and the perceived sound itself…
How do we articulate a unique experience (ear, internal ear, physical space) and this relationship?
How do we describe the sound, removed from the source? What we hear? How to create a vocabulary for sound? How do we begin to bridge the gap? Do we need to develop a new correlation that can helps listeners discuss and share their unique listening experiences?
Anamorphosis – …the correlation (characterised by certain irregularities) between the physical signal and the sound object…
These characteristics are noticed when the physical signal (vibrations) are conceived as heard sounds (the qualities of the sound in question). The attack of the sound is important here – the first instance of hearing something – to help us to become aware of these irregularities which then aid us to distinguish a sound from another sound.
Sound Object – …every sound phenomenon and event perceived as a whole, a coherey, and heard by means of reduced listening, which targets it for itself, independently of its origin or its meaning.
It is a conceptual object. The sound object is the point at which sound enters the ear, before our brain and minds can process it and make sense of it and apply ourselves to it. The sound object is not the physical signal, not the thing itself, nor is it the recorded representation of the sound.
How do we come up with an objective language to describe what is happening at our ear at the point hearing?
Reduced Listening – …the listening attitude which consists in listening to the sound object for it’s own sake by removing its real or supposed source and the meaning it may convey.
How a listener would listen for a sound object. Link to listening modes (2. perceiving, subjective). Reduced listening occurs at the beginning of a sound experience – a vehicle to reaching the sound object.
Reduced listening cannot be practised at a stroke; to achieve it we have to go through de-conditioning exercises to become aware of our… hearing reflexes and be capable of suspending them.
Chion is suggesting that a series of listening exercises be developed that can be used by any listener to reach a reduced listened state. However this seems to be inherently challenging due to the uniqueness that any listener will approach a sound – there seems to be such infinite variations to each personal approach to listening that it may be impossible to collectively reach reduced listening in ways that can be shared.