IMG_7879Hearing is a physical process, listening is a psychological act….Listening is an art.’ Robert Worby   In his excellently succinct essay An Introduction to Sound Art, Worby refers to the process of active listening, as opposed to passive hearing, as ‘auditory creativity’. In my view, if the source of the sound – live or recorded – is visible to the listener then the opportunity for this ‘auditory creativity’ and, therefore, creative engagement, is lessened. We are simply hearing what we would expect from the visual source – a process of identification and verification – an end point. Sound art, as opposed to art-with-sound, is striving towards creative listening, not passive hearing. It goes beyond straight documentation of an event in sound as well as vision. It is work where the sound itself provides the richest source of meaning, and where that meaning is experienced through creative emotional engagement. Impediment to listening casts an auditory shadow over the work, obscuring our ability to perceive and engage with it. While I am thinking and making sound works I think often of the parallels between the media of sound and paint – tones and rhythm link directly to hue and stroke, with notions of composition and narrative common to both. Taken into the ‘gallery’ the comparison remains valid. Tradition has it that once curated, pictures remain fixed in position on the walls, obstacles to their viewing are restricted and the light levels during gallery hours are kept optimal and constant. If we substitute the sensory medium of visible light with audible sound, the principles of curation remain essentially the same. The sonic environment in which the sound work is presented is organised and managed to give the audience a reasonably sonically unobscured and constant experience of the  work. Overlaying two works in the sonic field, for example, has its equivalent in the hanging of two paintings overlapping one another. And so on.

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