12: Methodology

My research is concerned with active listening, towards re-conceiving the experience of sound in an artistic context and the creation of sonic artworks presented in unique listening situations — most notably, underwater. Through the investigation of a range of theories relevant to sound and listening I have developed three critical frameworks that form my research methodology: expanded bodily listening; sonic representation and place in recorded sound; and re-considering sound in the gallery by accessing an embodied listening experience.  

This research examines an array of contemporary theories specific to sound and listening. These ideas inform a methodology of expanded bodily listening that uncovers unique ways to listen to creative sound compositions within an art context. Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophical take on listening and the effect sound has on the human body provides the theoretical basis towards identifying the distinction between how people hear and how people listen (Nancy 2007). Using our body as the locus, the work brings into focus the ritual in the act of listening framed by Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening practice (2005). Underwater listening has provided a framework for pushing the boundaries of the divergent forms sound can take within an artwork. The human encounter of listening underwater occurs through vibrations in the skull that transmit sounds to the inner ear (Helmreich 2007). Thus, it is through bone conduction listening that the work can access an embodied listening encounter.  

The research seeks to re-think place within sound through the all-encompassing concept of the Sonosphere (Oliveros 2006). Sonic representation and phonography are explored through the writings of Francisco Lopez (1998 & 2004), Pierre Schaeffer (1966) and Seth Kim-Coen (2009). The research utilises manipulated field recordings that relocate listeners to other times, other places, and other realities. By utilising the ‘paradox of sound’ as possessing both ‘absence and presence’ (Voegelin 2014), the research plays with time and place in order to explore the materiality of sound. My research seeks to manipulate sound materials as a sculptor would shape clay. Using sound recorded in the field, the work re-evaluates the role of representation in recorded sounds; and my obligations and values as an artist using such materials.

The experience of the listener is my starting point for exploring new ways in which sound is presented in an art context. Through the writings of Michel Chion (1994), Caleb Kelly (2017), and Douglas Khan (2013), the research looks at the relationship of hearing to seeing. It aims to re-evaluate constructs between sonic and visual arts presentations and practices; and to consider the space in which the sound is presented as the work itself.

The operations of fieldwork and collaboration are used to collect materials through subjective exchanges and listening responses. While the majority of this research is conducted individually, a core part of the project works with materials generated in an exchange with collaborators, both conceptually and technically. I engage a reflexive methodology during studio work using expanded listening to critically arrange and index these materials through intuitive responses, relational archiving and experimentation.