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The Acousmatic Gap as a Flexile Path to Self-Understanding: A case for experiential listening

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 November 2020

Thembi Soddell*
School of Art / Audiokinetic Experiments (AkE) Lab, School of Design, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia


Since Schaeffer’s development of musique concrète, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the value of the acousmatic reduction for engaging with real-world sound in music, and its relevance for composers and listeners. This article presents a way of working with acousmatic sound that is more meaningful to me as a composer, which I have labelled experiential listening. In understanding acousmatic sound through the lens of experientialism (as opposed to Schaeffer’s use of phenomenology), I have devised this method to form a dialogue between sound, composer, and listener through the use of metaphor, to explore concepts beyond the experience of just sound in itself while composing. It accounts for the felt sense of intuition that can form through working with acousmatic sound, presenting a way of using this as a tool for self-understanding. It highlights Brian Kane’s ontology of acousmatic sound as the being of a gap, exploring where this gap can take the mind of the composer and listener. This is illustrated through my use of experiential listening to gain insights into lived experiences of mental illness and trauma, which reveals inner wisdom about the listening self that can be negotiated through acousmatic sound.

© Cambridge University Press, 2020.

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