Critical Listening

[project site] (archive)

Critical Listening is a long-term research project with several objectives. It is intended to provide a set of skills and listening strategies that every musician, sound engineer, producer, and sound scholar should strive to sharpen and develop over the course of their careers. The idea is to learn how to listen and judge sound critically and independently of commercially-motivated recommendations and best practice suggestions given by various authority figures that the recording equipment industry calls on to endorse their products.

Topics focus on recorded sound and sound perception, training drills, analysis of classic recordings, and experimentation with different styles of mixing and sound production by 1. identifying and isolating various salient characteristics of sound such as width and depth, frequency range, dynamics and overall mix approaches used in various musical genres, and 2. studying socio-technical histories of production.

The second objective of Critical Listening is one borrowed from critical theory, and involves the study of social histories of listening. This part of the research project (provisionally named Acoustic Experiences) aims to study listening practices, urbanism, and the nature/purpose of listening research. The 20th century has produced an elaborate taxonomy of various aural perspectives, also known as listening modes, which combine both technical ability and social perspective. A few among them:

  • Active music listening after Masataka Goto, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan. “Masataka Goto will also demonstrate a web service for active music listening, “Songle“, that has analyzed more than 880,000 songs on music- or video-sharing services and facilitates deeper understanding of music. He will then demonstrate a web service for large-scale music browsing, “Songrium“, that allows users to explore music while seeing and utilizing various relations among more than 700,000 music video clips on video-sharing services.”
    Does any one individual listener really need this volume of information to gain a better “understanding of music?” Just because technology allows it, does performing such tasks mean anything or matter at the level of individual experience?
  • Pauline Oliveros and Deep Listening
  • The various ecological forms of listening embraced by followers of soundscape research, such as R. Jordan’s situated listening perspective.

See also: