Vertizontal Hearing (Up & Down, I then II)

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Composed by Christopher Haworth between March 2011 and February 2012. The binaural recording was made in the surround sound studios at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, on 13 February 2012. Vertizontal Hearing explores the unique capacity of sound synthesis to “play” or “trick” the ear. Almost all of the soundgenerating methods that are used in the piece are derived or inspired by music psychology and psychoacoustics research. The following all feature in the work in one way or another: Diana Deutsch’s Tritone Illusion and Phantom Words [1]; Albert Bregman’s work on Auditory Scene Analysis (particularly grouping mechanisms) [2]; Helmut Haas’ work on the role of the precedence effect in localization [3]; and my own and Gary Kendall’s original research on auditory distortion products [4]. Yet while the revelation of psychoacoustic effects and auditory illusions are important to the work, what interested me more as a composer was working with what might be called “functional” or even “anti-aesthetic” sound materials. For, in order to “succeed” as demonstrations of the hearing mechanism—whether auditory scene analysis, horizontal localization or whatever—the sound materials needed to be handled, and even listened to, in prescribed ways. This prescriptive quality is exemplified by the demonstration CDs that accompany psychoacoustics and music psychology textbooks, where there is often a “right” and “wrong” way to listen—otherwise you miss the phenomenon that is being demonstrated. Working with these materials thus imposed certain demands on the work: frequency ranges, durations, contrasts and other parameters were in some cases very narrowly prescribed. Yet their presentation as music transforms them; they cannot remain “anti-aesthetic” or purely functional. What I hope comes across, then, is an almost humorous sense of struggle—between materials that require particular conditions to reveal themselves and their organization in time as a musical work. Note: At 6:30, a method of synthesis is used that is not well reproduced in the binaural recording. When presented over eight speakers, the high-intensity, high-frequency tones create auditory distortion in the listener’s ears, producing a constantly rising tone that gradually slows down to a standstill. These methods are described in Kendall, Haworth and Cadiz [5].
1 D. Deutsch, “The Tritone Paradox: An Influence of Language on Music Perception,” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 8, No. 4, 335–347 (1991).
2 A. Bregman, Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).
3 H. Haas, “The Influence of a Single Echo on the Audibility of Speech,” JAES Volume 20, Issue 2, 146–159 (March 1972).
4 G. Kendall, C. Haworth and R. Cadiz, “Sound Synthesis with Auditory Distortion Products,” Computer Music Journal 38, No. 4, 5–23 (2014).
5 Kendall, et al. [4].
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputCD
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Christopher Haworth: Vertizontal Hearing (Up & Down, I then II) (8:58) was referenced in Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 26, 2016, p. 104, Sonic Commentary: All Ears Contributors’ Notes, curated by Bill Bahng Boyer.


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