Are There No Birds Singing In The Woods Today?

Listening: In-between Focusing and Blurring

“It is important to relize that focussing on something necessarily blurs something else…”[1] F.G Asenjo

I organised a sound activity for some of the children during the August session of Quarrymill Adventures. Each child was given a sound recorder and headphones, and asked to find and record different woodland sounds. RSPB Volunteer Katie, even helped to make a woodland xylophone for the children to play and record!

I asked one child to record the sound of a bird singing. After a few minutes, the child came running back and informed me that no birds were singing in the woods today. I was slightly baffled and I stopped for a moment to focus on listening for birds. I heard Crows’ cawing, a Robin chattering, and a Woodpigeon cooing in the distance.

“Can you hear the Crows?” I asked. “No, I can only hear the water from the burn and the wind in the trees,” they replied. I needed to focus the child’s attention so I looked up into the trees.  I could see a Coal-tit sitting on a branch. “Can you see the bird in the tree? Listen! It is singing?” I questioned as I pointed towards the bird. “Yes, I hear it tweeting and moving on the twig,” the child replied, as they eagerly pressed the red button on the sound recorder. 

I began to reflect on the child’s experience of recording sound. I wonder if the sound of birdsong is so frequent; the sound of water and wind so predominant, they could not focus on listening to the bird singing. The action of listening is very different from hearing. Hearing is an ability we are born with; a passive process of our ears receiving signals at a subconscious level and requires very little concentration. Yet, listening is a skill we learn; an active process of interpreting the signals our ears receive at a conscious level and requires focus and concentration.

By introducing a visual element to the child’s perception (the bird in the tree) it allowed the child to focus on the birdsong.  The child needed to blur the background noise of the woodland. They turned their body towards the sound. Their eyes located the sound source to help the ears hear and their mind to focus, filter and interpret the signal.  This action presented the movement between focusing and blurring. For this child, the whole body was needed to focus and listen to a selected sound. This selective auditory attention is the ability to focus on a specific sound while filtering out other noises, it is also known as the cocktail party effect[2].


[1] Asenjo, F. G. (1988). In-between: an essay on categories, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America, Washington, D.C. P15

[2] Cherry, E. C. (1953). Some experiments on the recognition of speech with one and with two ears. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 25, 975–979.


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Our Tale is What Remains.

A walk with the people like you.

We move in-between the green, 

the green and dandelions on a quiet corner of a Paisley route.

Route, control and space.

We quickly walk, red brick, red brick to Sma Shot Lane. 

Past the Jesus is the reader sign and the weavers’ lion statue.

A stroll towards the New street.  

We stop and look up. I’m not sure about the cherubs.

Quick, march past Mr Kebab and the vertical lines of The Russell Institute.

The God of medicine twisting an enchanting tale… 

We pass a shopping trolley, coffee shop and an empty store.

An empty space with an empty corporation. 

I look for a sign, a blue Yes2 and a bus stop zone 

We arrive at the abbey, governed by order.

Move quietly and be considerate.

A timeline of happening from 1163, tick, tick, tick…

We hear about the monks who have been cleaning up for 400 years.

Dusting and washing tired feet. It’s time to leave.

Hello to Bonnie Fleurs and the High Street.

We wait at the curb for the red man to turn green.

The pace of the pack slows into the historic town. 

A voice cries “Before you go, remember, look up and search for Paisley pigeons.” 

We listen to the sound of the bird’s wings until…

our tale is what remains.

© Olsen 2019

This poem was created in response to a walking tour around Paisley in Scotland. The Tour was led by Dr. Alison McCandlish as a part of the ‘Participatory Methods and Affective Domains: Walking, Documenting and Sensing as Practice course delivered by the University of West Scotland.

A Walk With Nature

Quarrymill © Olsen 2019

Today, I explored Quarrymill by recording sound and capturing 360 images. During my visit, I started to think about how new media could help children explore the wilderness. I have decided to share one of my images with an another inspirational quote I found from John Muir.

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”[1]


[1] Muir, J (1916). A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company The Riverside Press Cambridge.

In-Between Sound

“Listening to sound is where objectivity and subjectivity meet” [1]

In Voegelin book Listening to noise and silence, she discusses a liminal quality found in listening. She describes listening as an experience of our perception. The listener produces objectivity from the subjective listening position. Objective thought is what we take to be the objective world. For example a computer screen, the table etc. A subjective thought is what we take to be our narrative thinking or imagination. For example the thoughts you have while listening.

I consider listening to sound is an in-between experience. Sound can be activated as a disruption, or incursion, in-between the objective and subjective experience. We can describe this disruption as being in-between mind and matter.

A Sonic Reality of the In-betweencopyright © Olsen 2018

I have searched for In-between categories found in the audible world. In Asenjo book ‘In-between: an essay on categories, He believes contradictions should not be eliminated or modified as they provide “an ‘opportunity for a richer, two sided development of factual meaning[2].’

I consider soundscapes create an experience that opens up the possibilities of in-between-ness. Within an immersive soundscape, a dynamic interplay of in-between categories happens, for example, cause and event[3], objectivity and subjectivity and feelings in-between the strange and the familiar. The In-between categories found in sonic realities are not fixed points, for example; in-between presence and absence. Our perception moves or flows in-between these two points.

 

[1] Voegelin, S. 2010, Listening to noise and silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. P14

[2] Asenjo, F. G. (1988). In-between: an essay on categories, Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology & University Press of America, Washington, D.C. P65

[3] Augoyard, J; Torgue, H. (2006). Sonic Experience. a Guide to Everyday Sounds.. Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

 

Why?

Question

My research journey begins with the quest for the right question. So far I have discovered…

WHAT describes WHEN

WHEN develops WHY

WHY explains HOW

HOW explores WHAT

 

I have I decided on why.

Why is my question.

WHY IS IMPORTANT AS IT EXPLAINS HOW.

In-between Space and the Sonic.

Soundwave2Our experience of reality is changing. New developments in Augmented Reality and immersive 3D sound will have a massive impact on our everyday lives. My new project aims to debate the perception of immersive soundscapes and why this creates an embodied experience of the in-between. Research suggests our society is digitally distracted in a technological environment and our distraction has impacted our everyday interactions. I want to create work that aspires to bridge an audience’s sense of detachment and re-connect a listener’s consciousness to our social and natural world.  I believe the delivery of immersive soundscapes can allow listeners to experience a deeper level of engagement.  A ‘happening of truth’ within a sound experience can focus our attention on the enchanting environment.

Soundwave2