Sound I Care


Guest lecture by Thomas Grill “The sound of listening”
Definition of listening from Wikipedia: “conscious processing of the auditory stimuli that have been perceived through hearing”
Quote of semiotician Roland Barthes: “hearing is a physiological phenomenon;  listening is psychological act.”
Pierre Schaeffer and the theory of sound objects or four ways of listening: table with 2 columns (concrete, abstract) and 2 rows (objective, subjective). Identification of source, attribution of meaning, reception of sound, selective hearing
Picture of John Cage in an anechoic chamber (at Harvard university). John Cage was hearing 2 sounds: One high frequency (from his nervous system) and a low frequency (from circulating blood). This experience lead him to compose 4min33s.
Picture of Evelyn Glennie, who is a deaf drummer and “hears” through the sense of touch. Other examples of unusual listening: tinnitus, possibility to dream of music, compositions of Brian Ferneyhoug (time and motion study II)
Information content of sound:
  • One second of cd quality audio
  • 44100 samples, 16 bits resolution -> 705600 bits
  • Ten to the 212406 possible combinations
  • Many possible combinations are perceptually irrelevant (how many are just random noise?)
Physiological auditory processing cochlea in the inner ear is a frequency analyser;
Flowchart as sound flows from the environment (sound high bandwidth) to hearing organ (information low bandwidth) to cognition (in the brain). However there is also a feedback flow of information: expectation of sound (and mechanic control of hearing organ)
Example (very low bandwidth): it was a sunny day and children were going to the park (not audible unless one knows the text)
Auditory modelling:
How to represent auditory information adequately? How to avoid audio compression (example mp3, loss of information)?
Research project SALSA (Semantic annotation by learned structured and adaptive signalling)
How to represent auditory information adequately? See papers on his homepage and Siedenburg, K. and Dörfer, M. “Structured sparsity for audio signals” Proceeding of 14th conference on digital audio effects, 2011.
How to order sound files? For example annotation with semantic connotations.
Multimodal perception:
Ecological approach (James Gibson): specifics of the senses are shaped by influences of the physical environment. Affordance of objects, example chair, drum set). Enactivism.
Strong synaesthesia is very rare and individual. Weak synaesthesia (cross-modal similarity) is the default state. Famous example from Wolfgang Köhler (from “Gestalt psychology 1929)
Application: musical interface – continuous map of textural sounds
Low frequency orchestra plays Robert Lettner: “das Spiel vom Kommen und Gehen (2006-2010).
He shows a Plot: arousal vs valence
Information content 3: Music
Notes are merely command lines for slave musicians; sound is also about context (examples of an orchestra playing, a nightingale singing)
Denis Smalley, “spectromophology: Explaining sound-shapes” (1997).
Sound walks as guided tours: meat packing sound walk, on times square, wall street, etc.
Christina Kubish makes electric walks: electromagnetic waves transformed into sound waves.
He shows some of his work: world construction, variation: empty vessel (2013 New Orleans). PALAOA – long-time acoustical monitoring in the south polar sea.
Research on things that have not been heard before.


Barbara Macek, Anna Lerchbaumer and Marwa Sarah present their project outline for “caring: Enactments of heterogeneous relationships”