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Auditive Horizon

January 31, 2007

Recently I read in the book by Blauert that we might have an auditive horizon as sound sources move away from us there is a threshold beyond which we are no longer able to determine changes in distance only from the signal of the isolated sound source reaching our ears. Of so the reason why a car passing eventually disappears have to be that the sound slowly dissolves in the bed of background noise.

At the moment I am fascinated by the idea of making a sound installation with sound not emerging from silence as was the case for Cubic Second but instead incorporating a background layer. I am pondering how to do so while maintaining the ability to work with sound of high fidelity and not necessarily very high volumes as I enjoyed the possibilities that the setting of Cubic Second offered for being able to work with sound in a precise and detailed manner. Also: how can such backgrounds be constructed? If scanning recent electronic and contemporary music for possible models the drone urbane or environmental field recordings and the minimalism are the first possibilities coming to mind. I would like to go beyond that.

Listening to orchestral music of Debussy some weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that often he seems to be suggesting a state or environment. The next second it transforms to a new state or illusion in a kaleidoscopic sweep as if nature was animated. In a way this could be thought of as a heritage from romanticism.

Two phases recently read have glued themselves to these thoughts:


These works do not cut themselves of from location interference or unwanted noise but rather embrace these elements as an important compositional source.

From the introduction to
Brandon LaBelle og Steve Roden (Eds.): Site of Sound.


On the Wildeye course he introduces the three layers of sound: atmospheres habitats and species. They are natural terms but could just as easily apply to recording say a railway goods yard. Atmosphere is the unobtrusive bed of sound – perhaps the gentle noise of distant traffic the hum of air conditioning wind in the trees. A habitat could be the general sound of that railway goods yard. The species is the specific animal (or train or voice) you want to feature.

A Guardian feature on Chris Watson.