08 May 2012

The Predicament of Culture (Small Things in a Big Landscape)

"...Actually there's an academic area of study and research devoted to that sort of thing. It's called 'psychoacoustics.'"

What, is that the study for when someone thinks they hear voices in their head?

"Haha, you're cute. But no, it's about the study of how the brain processes sound, the way it receives and interprets it...makes sense of it as sensory input. Some researchers in the field have done things like what you're talking about..."

As far as the 'semantics' of sound are concerned?

"Sort of, I guess...something along those lines. They'll go into some deeply landlocked desert region -- like, for instance, some place in driest parts of Africa -- some place where the locals aren't likely to have experienced large bodies of water. And then they put headphones on them or whatever and play them recordings of the sound of flowing water -- 'babbling brooks' and noisier forms of water -- and they ask them what they make of it. And the answer is usually that the person listening to it can't identify what the sound is, it falls outside their experience, but they find it very pleasant....very soothing, whatever it is."

Sounds absolutely fascinating, I'd love to read some of that. Is there a journal?

"That sort of research isn't typical in the field. It tends to be incredibly dry. The bulk of the literature is deeply esoteric -- extremely technical and academically abstract. Definitely no way to access any of it from a casual, 'layman's' perspective. Even I can't begin to crack the terminology."


images: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets series, 2008-2011.

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