An empirical investigation into heightened listening as an access tool for electroacoustic music.
The heightened listening (HL) project investigated whether raising aural awareness in young inexperienced listeners could influence their appreciation of electroacoustic (E/A) music that includes real world sounds. It builds on the Intention/Reception (I/R) project (Weale, 2005), which found that inexperienced listeners can appreciate this type of music. Heightened listening is defined in the HL project as a focused concentration on the internal character of sounds while, in contrast to reduced listening, still allowing external associations to be made. It allows for shifts in focus between these aspects of sound depending on what is appropriate for the work that is being listened to. Workshops, which included listening exercises based on those advocated by R. Murray Schafer, were organised in a number of schools and their influence on appreciation was tested through questionnaires. A soundscape work was composed as test material to be used in the workshops. After data analysis the piece was recomposed based on listener feedback and then retested in a later session to investigate whether the intention/reception loop improved. As a reference, workshops were also conducted with blind or visually impaired participants (as subjects who already possess heightened sonic awareness through practiced everyday listening) to explore their response to E/A music. The results suggested that raised aural awareness did enhance appreciation for the inexperienced listeners. Two thirds of the participants expressed an interest in listening again to sound-based music in the future and the majority of these said the listening exercises aided their ability to listen to the sounds. Responses indicated that the results would have been more convincing if the methodology had allowed greater participation in the creative process. Future research could integrate this and explore how heightened listening could enable further use of the imagination, metaphors and memories in creative practice.
- MPhil