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Context-based Sound and the Ecological Theory of Perception

  • David Chapman (a1)

This article aims to investigate the ways in which context-based sonic art is capable of furthering a knowledge and understanding of place based on the initial perceptual encounter. How might this perceptual encounter operate in terms of a sound work’s affective dimension? To explore these issues I draw upon James J. Gibson’s ecological theory of perception and Gernot Böhme’s concept of an ‘aesthetic of atmospheres’.

Within the ecological model of perception, an individual can be regarded as a ‘perceptual system’: a mobile organism that seeks information from a coherent environment. I relate this concept to notions of the spatial address of environmental sound work in order to explore (a) how the human perceptual apparatus relates to the sonic environment in its mediated form and (b) how this impacts on individuals’ ability to experience such work as complex sonic ‘environments’. Can the ecological theory of perception aid the understanding of how the listener engages with context-based work? In proposing answers to this question, this article advances a coherent analytical framework that may lead us to a more systematic grasp of the ways in which individuals engage aesthetically with sonic space and environment. I illustrate this methodology through an examination of some of the recorded work of sound artist Chris Watson.

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T. D. Blumstein , R. Davitian and P. D. Kaye 2010. Do Film Soundtracks Contain Nonlinear Analogues to Influence Emotion? Biology Letters 6(6): 751754.

E. Clarke 2005. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

C. Cox 2011. Beyond Representation and Signification: Toward a Sonic Materialism. Journal of Visual Culture 10(2): 145161.

J. C. Risset 1996. Real-World Sounds and Simulacra in my Computer Music. Contemporary Music Review 15(1): 2947.

J. Sterne 2006. The mp3 as Cultural Object. New Media and Society 8(15): 825842.

B. Truax 2002. Genres and Techniques of Soundscape Composition as Developed at Simon Fraser University. Organised Sound 7(1): 514.

B. Truax 2012. Sound, Listening and Place: The Aesthetic Dilemma. Organised Sound 17(3): 193201.

C. Watson 2003. Weather Report. London: Touch Music, TO:47–CD.

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Organised Sound
  • ISSN: 1355-7718
  • EISSN: 1469-8153
  • URL: /core/journals/organised-sound
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