Echo and Narcissus; aural space, navigation and memory; or Playing it by Ear!

Echo and Narcissus ~ Aural space, navigation and memory, or Playing it by Ear!

A SoundWalk.

I am going to take you on a walk, a soundwalk if you will. I am going to lead you, by the ear, if necessary, to the Sonic Commons, at once an atavistic geography and yet again a simple concept. But before our stroll and as in all good soundwalks, a short briefing:-

Echo and Narcissus. The two stories of Echo, the talkative nymph…..yet a chatterbox, had no other use of speech than she has now, that she could repeat only the last words out of many…. and Narcissus the vain youth who rejects the nymphs advances, were first combined by Ovid in his work Metamorphoses.

A curse placed upon Echo limited her speech to mimic those around her and after her brush with unrequited love she faded away into the forest so that only her voice remained to inhabit the wooded slopes. After shunning Echo, Narcissus lay beside a forest pool, entranced by an image of youth and beauty. Not recognising his own reflection, he became deeply enamoured with the visage which mirrored his every move but which agonisingly vanished each time he attempted to reach for it.

He died at that spot, disconsolate, weeping as the nymph had done, his sobs repeated in the woods by those of Echo. As his body melded with the forest floor a flower we know as a Narcissus bloomed.

A Proposition.

There is a strong, but largely unacknowledged, relationship between sound, site and memory, both personal and cultural, that allows us to form complex associations and communal identities with particular loci. This text explores some of these relationships through the metaphor of The Sonic Commons a terrain of aural exchange and transaction, haunted by the ghosts of Echo and Narcissus.

The universal ear ~ listener as centre.

The palace is all whorls, lobes; it is a great ear, whose anatomy and architecture trade names and functions; pavilions, ducts, shells, labyrinths.You are crouched at the bottom, in the innermost zone of the palace-ear, of your own ear; the palace is the ear of the king.

Italo Calvino.The King Listens - (Under the Jaguar Sun).

Let us begin with the simple question of our location and how might an auditor position themselves in the vast and complex web of vibrations that form the sonic environment? The answer is both simple and fundamental ~ our sensorium demands that each of us inhabits the epicenter of the sonic world; permanently occupying a mobile sweetspot. There is of course no better place to be ~ whilst we all share equally in the flux of the sonic commons we are simultaneously privileged as the absolute ruler of a unique sonic realm. Furthermore our senses form a Procrustes Bed (1) upon which the palpable world is forced to comply, creating the illusion that our perceptions are both comprehensive and exhaustive, rather than a small portion of the vast spectrum that extends well beyond our perceptual hearth and home.

An additional, alarmingly simple issue, is that of Immersion. Whilst a chieving a convincing sense of immersion in an artifact demands considerable skill it is ironically an inescapable condition of our quotidian experience. We are immersed in the womb, bathed by pulsing body fluids and maternal speech alike; upon issue into the world we are henceforth saturated in subtle vibrations and alarming noises whether awake and asleep, like it or not!

Be no afeared; this isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments’
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.

Caliban in The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

The soundscapes that we perceive as intricate and seamless natural compositions (a forest at dawn or the metropolis at rush hour) are in reality conglomerations of mostly independent and unrelated sounds. What appears to the auditor as a structured and syncopated whole, arises from a vast array of largely unrelated sonic events, some intentional, many accidental ~ all are spatially displaced but all converge upon our ears which form the centre of the soniferous universe in which we are immersed. In a complimentary fashion, the auditors themselves form another set of spatially displaced and bye and large, independent sensory portals ~ these two spatial matrices are overlaid with the result that like witnesses in a court, each auditor experiences a subtly different version of sonic reality!

Sound and Architecture.

As Calvino describes in Under the Jaguar Sun, architecture is the site where we first encounter a profound transformation in the behaviour of sound. As we leave the half- space (2) of an open air environment architecture works to propagate and convolve the original voice to form reflection, this is the work of Echo. It is here that we realise that our sense of space is conferred possibly more by the ear than by sight, where we understand that hearing and the related sense of touch is fundamental; primeval.

But to travel beyond the physical, contemporary sound-works produced by systems such as AudioNomad (3) facilitate the storage, retrieval and composition of audio content within complex virtual soundscapes that are in turn directly associated with real landscapeorarchitecturalobjects. Theinspirationforsuchaugmentedaudioreality has its precedence in the classical Ars Memoria, a mnemonic system for retrieving rhetoric.

In The Art of Memory (4) FrancesYates paints a vivid picture of the antique technique that enabled Orators to place memory objects, such as lengthy quotations, within the labyrinthine spaces of classical architecture. By visualising an architectural interior, real or imaginary, the speaker might take a virtual walk, placing here a red cloak over a sculpture to recall a passage of oration and there, a sword on a table as a mnemonic trigger to locate yet another verse. By memorising a stroll through this virtual architecture, an Orator could retrieve a vast amount of correctly sequenced rhetoric. Contemporary location aware audio technologies such as AudioNomad, recreate the Memory Palace, replacing the imaginary tour with (GPS tracked) physical movement in the real-world (that is paralleled in a sonically seeded cartographic software environment) driving an immersive surround- sound environment in real-time that is directly associated with the physical landscape andarchitectonicfeatures. Theoriginalconceptdevelopmentandtechnicalresearch for such virtual sonic commons was developed by the author in conjunction with Lake Technology (now Dolby Australia) from 1999 and has subsequently featured in a series of international exhibitions facilitated by the AudioNomad Research Group.

Thus we have moved from the Sonic Commons, a consensual and shared public world of sonic experience to the private, imaginary or virtual sound worlds of both classical and contemporary eras.

Genius Loci. Sounds are neither neutral nor necessarily mobile ~ one of the principal tools of the discipline of Acoustic Ecology is the identification of Keynote Sounds ~ sonic Genius Loci which are deeply enmeshed with their environment. The sound of foghorns in San Francisco Harbour, for example.

Keynote Sounds are objective and salient sonic events that constitute an aural fingerprint of a location and hence form a memory object fused with location, much like the colocation of sound and imaginary space in Ars Memoria. However non-quotient and even subjective sounds can also form mnemonic objects ~ such idiosyncratic sounds may be associated with a specific physical event at a unique point-in-time, for example the historic explosion of the caldera Krakatoa in Indonesia on August 26th and 27th 1883.These sounds are calculated to be the loudest event in human memory, the shockwaves were heard 4,500 km away (all along the SW coast of Australia, and across SE Asia).

A more current example might be the combination of both a permanent and a transient sound such as Westminster’s Big Ben, known more in its Radiophonic role as a time keeper and BBC logotype. The chimes of Big Ben unequivocally identify a locus (Westminster/London/England) but also function to symbolise a variety of stereotypes and epochs.The combination of Big Ben with the grave voice of Churchill conjures the Blitz and British stoicism, mixed against the shrill of Thatcher’s hectoring we get free market hell and dubbed against the smoothness of Blair…..well I don’t want to be unkind but you get the idea!

The Commons and Fiction.

Another set of partially personal and cultural, sonic memory objects issue from the realm of fiction, from literary and especially filmic narratives. These are the artifactual sound worlds of, for example, The Sound of Music that live on in peoples imaginations and what is more, are re-projected upon real-world loci. The cult of Julie Andrews and the tour busses that constantly tour sites in Salzburg are a good example of the confluence of fictional events and the popular imaginary, as an extract from a tour company brochure illustrates.

1965 Salzburg was the scenery of a film, which would become famous: The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Our busses were used by the film crew and our limousines carried the stars. After the release of the film, many fans came to Salzburg asking about the original sites - and our drivers could naturally guide them. That’s how the Original Sound of MusicTour started.

Salzburg tour operator website.

They can be found everywhere, visiting Martin Luther King’s I had a Dream church, tracking down Dr Zhivago or crunching along the beaches of the Blue Lagoon set, constantly replaying the soundtracks in their heads as they go.

The Commons ~ Sonic and otherwise.

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.


The traditional and somewhat Utopic view of the Commons is as a set of geographies and environments that are freely available for the use of and enjoyment by all, beyond the restrictions and caveats of private property. This model of the Commons as a free nomansland set apart from the collective economic centre and tolerated by the Imperium (Church, Lord and King) as a zone of marginal economic value for, albeit regulated, collective use was rapidly eroded in the Anglo-Saxon world with the introduction of the Enclosure Movement that privatised farming and dismantled collective subsistence agriculture.  The process of enclosing Common Land began in the British Isles in 1235 with the Statute of Merton but reached its peak between 1760 to 1832, by which time the medieval structure of agriculture had entirely disappeared. Land was increasingly regulated and access restricted. Village structures changed radically propelling villagers either towards landownership or wage slaves (many departing altogether to swell the ranks of the urban poor and mill fodder).

We currently regard the Commons less as physical or environmental sites but as culturally shared and free assets, but the essential characteristic is that they are noncommodifiable and noncommercial assets. (5)

I can breath freely now the rain has gone…...

The atmosphere is a convenient metaphor for the commons in that we partake of its chemical composition for our very existence, it also provides the medium that propagates our acoustic world. We therefore take for granted that it is a natural right to breathe and listen. However neither the chemical composition nor the acoustic ecology of the atmosphere remains unsullied.

The atmosphere (and likewise its chemical partner) the oceans are under increasing stress which manifest negatively in the health of the biosphere. As a direct parallel the acoustic environments that most of us inhabit have suffered powerful forms of erosion and depletion. No longer can we by default, experience the small and dynamic sound of natural systems, blanketed under acoustic smog of motor noise and traffic rumble, piped music or the dull throb of the metropolis. The complex strange attractor patterns generated by natural systems and which are deeply embedded in our psyche are the casualties in this acoustic species loss.

In western urban centres we have witnessed the gradual elimination of physical effort and exercise from dailylife, our energy rationalised along Fordist lines.  To compensate this lack, the wellbeing that physical activity provides is resupplied in the commodified form of the gym treadmill and the personal trainer.

In a parallel vein the absent natural sonic patterns of the estranged environment resurface in the guise of natural ambient sounds accompanied by semi-hypnotic voice- overs designed to establish notions of well-being and harmony (sic).

Singing in the Rain.

A singer who sings like a bird is an unproductive worker. When she sells her song, she is a wage earner or merchant. But the same singer, employed by someone else to give concerts and bring in money, is a productive worker because she directly produces capital.

Karl Marx Das Kapital.

The same might be applied to our vocal and musical lives, which once were rich in regional song, poetry and narrative (as there was no real alternative) one might say a rich ecology of organic musics.  At that Schitzophonic (6) moment when Edison invented the phonograph two forces began to operate. Contrary to Edison’s wishes and predictions the phonograph was used for entertainment (music) purposes rather than the serious business and archival direction he intended. Powerful agents of industrial capital seized upon the nascent technology rapidly and decisively, pushing it (like the propagation of the sewing machine and the bicycle that preceded it) into the rural areas as well as urban centres.

Your words are preserved in the tin foil and will come back upon the application of the instrument years after you are dead in exactly the same tone of voice you spoke in then…..This tongueless, toothless instrument, without larynx or pharynx, dumb, voiceless matter, nevertheless mimics your tones, speaks with your voice, speaks with your words, and centuries after you have crumbled into dust will repeat again and again, to a generation that could never know you, every idle thought, every fond fancy, every vain word that you chose to whisper against this thin iron diaphragm.

Edison’s outlook on the Ars Memoria function of the phonograph ~ Edison was partially deaf which probably coloured his attitude to music.

When the Grim Reaper appeared in the guise of Ethnomusicologists the game was up, once the traditional tunes were recorded the old folks could die in peace listening to the phonograph, the radio, the walkman and now the internet. The material, sourced from all over the globe reemerging as World Music, often beautiful hybrids of Eastern and Western, or Southern and Northern traditional melodies and lyrics but now played by professionals for passive reception and enjoyment ~ recreation but not creation.

This viewpoint could be accused of being overly pessimistic but the simple fact remains that in general very few of us can sing more than a line or two from our favourite songs, and communal singing is generally regarded as gauche in most urban circles ~ we can sing along to the prompts of the radio or karaoke identifying that once again what was once a natural and common property has been surrendered to the processes of Capital and resold to us in the form of privately owned commodities.

Privatisation of the Commons, take 2.

Contemporary western culture takes such notions as the private and the intimate very seriously, regarding them as both fundamental and natural rights. So closely linked are they to the basis of industrial capital that it is easy to overlook the historical reality, where private space, as opposed to the public vis-à-vis, is a relatively recent luxury commodity!

In the audio realm the communication technologies of the telephone and wireless broadcast have created and proliferated the possibility of intimate listening spaces within the public domain. Recent developments in mobile audio devices such as the cell phone and personal listening systems have amplified the transformation of the sonic commons, punctuating it with myriad imploded private soundscapes.

Such immersion in the self, such selective listening, is easily construed as a turn away from public and shared aural forms towards an individualised and commodified aural experience. This movement has strong parallels with the recent embrace of political and economic tendencies away from the collective and communal and towards a valourisation of the individual and the privatised.

The concept of aural privacy, once inextricably linked with either spatial isolation (a conversation in camera) or with furtive behaviour (whispering) now strikes us as remarkable. The internalisation of sonic narratives has an interesting precedent in the discovery of silent reading; for we forget that before the 5th century the literate were also performers of written texts. The first known citation of silent reading was recorded by St Augustine in reference to a 5th century monk Ambrose. When he read his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud. (7)

To gauge the significance of this shift in behaviour imagine a London Tube at peak hour with the entire carriage intoning articles from theTimes and theTelegraph! Telephony; locatedness and public speech.

Whilst it is common knowledge that technological forms of sound reproduction have a powerful influence on the manner in which we experience sound in the public realm, we are less aware of the underlying transformations related to the spatial location, temporal displacement and the virtual elimination of provenance that mark recorded and transmitted audio.

Murray Schaefer’s Schizophonic splitting of a sound from its original source en route to being embalmed in a recorded or transmitted medium is at the very heart of both the temporal and spatial dislocations with which we are now so familiar. Schizophonic audio therefore runs counter to the powerful and fundamental psychoacoustic linkages between the eye and the ear, forming the perceptual glue that instantly identifies a sound with its source and location. This disassociation of sound and source is enshrined in the history of electroacoustic music as acousmatiques. (8)

The original fixed landline (point to point) telephone represents our one of the earliest experiences of schitzophonic audio. Even so, the early telephone system marked the geo-spatial location of those in dialogue to the point that each correspondent associated the signal with both a personality and a physical surrounding and therefore to some extent, the telephonic act became a sonic bridge between familiar sites. At each end of the line, an imagination of the distant site, a parlour with overstuffed chairs and a mothers dress, a formal wood paneled office and the smell of pipe tobacco and so on.

Thus the landline partially diminished the spatial otherness implied by communication at a distance by frequently reinstating a supplementary knowledge of the distant location. Contemporary telephonic communication has however become increasingly deterritorialised and deracinated. The mobile phone essentially promotes a dialogue between nomads, obliterating the concept of familiar location or environs. It is not without irony that the first question posed during a mobile phone conversation is not How are you? but Where are you? with the inevitable response, I’m on a bus!

Along with mobility the cell phone has initiated forms of social evolution (or devolution). Originally phones were mounted on walls their earpieces at head height, it was, of course, impolite to talk to a stranger in a sitting position, it was also considered improper to chat on a telephone (something apparently women were inclined to do).

Early telephone companies went to considerable lengths to reserve the device as a business machine and in some cases strove to keep them out of private homes! Nineteenth Century telephone aficionados would be alarmed at the prosthetic-like application of Bluetooth headsets and the spectre of the glossaliaic pedestrian (merrily talking to invisible correspondents and gesticulating wildly). Such people, once shunned as mad, are now tolerated in some countries, although such behaviour is still considered socially unacceptable in many public spaces in Europe (the train system for example frequently demarcates areas where mobile phones may and may not be used).

Wirelessness, smallness and mobility.

With the tranny and the boombox the development of transistors delivered miniaturisation and ipso facto true portability, the consequence being that radio and phonographic replay now could leave the home (and the power outlet) and head for the streets, the beach and the ghetto.

This sonic assault has two phases; intrusive and implosive audio.  The first of these audio modalities might be considered invasive or at least expressive and is exemplified by the ghetto blaster and its more recent incarnation, mega-bass lowrider vehicular sound systems. Whilst the old boy with the transistor glued to one ear, listening to the cricket (or the ball-game) is not considered as noise pollution ~ the dude with the boom-box is trying really hard! The ghetto blaster in effect re-ritualises sound in public space and makes an unequivocal claim on cultural space.

Ironically, in a marked contrast to the expressive nature of the ghetto-blaster we are currently witnessing an implosion of audio-worlds (as if in recoil from an overload of urban stress) into the micro-acoustic-ecologies of the Walkman, the cell phone and the iPod.

This tendency initiated by the Walkman and now conferred upon the iPod nullifies the vis-à-vis of public space transforming collective experience into serial withdrawal ~ A retreat, perhaps a respite from the press of bodies in the commuter train, an escape from the pressure of being a social-being, within the anonymous crowd. The general and desired use of mobile entertainment audio is to isolate the user from anonymous public situations the crowd and transitory geographical/spatial situations, transit, public transport being the ideal nexus. The audio-bubble effect also extends to the monotony of the gym treadmill, the boredom of air travel and curiously to the delights of jogging.

It is perhaps therefore not surprising that the popularity of mobile personal audio systems (and the concomitant desire to be sonically isolated) is less prevalent in non- urban contexts; the social fabric of smaller and rural towns generally lack the principal drivers of anonymity, crowding and their nexus, mass transit. The pressure to conform to recent audio fashion is probably also diminished by a reduced exposure to advertising hype. To be optimistic we might embrace the greater community of consumers and indulge in the simplistic embrace of the notions of the freedom of choice within the free- market economy of music(s), especially if we adopt the view that now all music is world music, a commodity form set free from ethnic and cultural boundaries by the corporate sector. We may now assert and affirm our individuality by the esoteric nature of our playlists, sharing them even, in generous acts that freely gives that which is not legally ours (sorry Sony records but thank-you peer to peer).

That which remains…

The counterpoint to an audio world composed of myriad private mobile soundscapes is found in it’s negative envelope, that which remains as public aural space inhabited by those weak and fractured signals that escape from earbuds and headphones. Unlike the hauntingly somatic riffs of a street saxophonist, playing to no-one in particular, late at night these are transient B.P.M. signals just audible enough to attract the attention, but instantly discarded as irrelevant and redundant. The ear constantly and redundantly hunting for meaningful patterns, a mechanism reminiscent of British Army Intelligence audio torture, once practiced against IRA political prisoners! EMF another type of Commons.

For millennia our kind has either been cowed or awed by the crash of thunder and the flash of lightening, totally oblivious to the third powerful component, not obvious to our limited senses ~ the Electromagnetic pulse. Even when we had established a vague inkling that some further phenomena accompanied the donner und blitz it took decades before it was harnessed to drive the telegraph, telephone, phonograph and radio.

By the time the electromagnetic forces were being put to work our world no longer operated in collective terms, the proprietary drive of Capital had restructured the world as a mosaique of commodity forms and this included the Electromagnetic Spectrum.

Considered philosophically Electromagnetic phenomena constitute a Commons on a Cosmic scale of which our atmosphere may be considered a convenient (if local) analogue. We are immersed in both, neither can be effectively owned or contained, but the rights to inhabit and use the atmosphere and the electromagnetic spectrum as propagating media have been claimed (as if by force).

The EMS has of course been auctioned off to the highest bidder, be they the military, the christian right or Murdoch (there may be little difference) and the content, the performance, the recording and the transmission are also all regulated and commodified ~ there are scant loopholes in this simplex system. (9)

Endangered Sounds and Endangered Species.

As remarked, one reaction to social and economic disenfranchisement is that sound is used as a means of marking territory, of claiming a space. The ghetto blaster, the low rider and the modified exhausts of Harley Davidson’s all partake of this acoustic Anschluss.

The Endangered Sounds project by Garth Paine(10) highlights the complex and often ridiculous attempts to carve off fragments of the auditory world into private ownership, naturally issues of ownership of the atmosphere as the transmitting medium are not adequately addressed, neither the issues of sonic modification caused by reflection, döppler etc.

Endangered Sounds, this project questions the legitimacy of privatizing and protecting sounds that are released at random in public spaces. If I own a multi-million dollar penthouse in a city, and work nigh shifts, I have no recourse against the loud Harley Davidson or Australian Football League (AFL) siren (both protected sounds) that wakes me from my precious sleep both sounds are privately protected, making their recording, reproduction and broadcast illegal.Who has responsibility for these disturbances ~surely a level of corporate responsibility should come with the mechanisms of private protection for financial gain afforded by the soundmarks?

From the endangered Sounds website.

And here an extract form the Protected SoundMarks list ~ our old friendTarzan. Serial No:
Registration No: Current Status: Applicant/Owner : Goods and/or Services: International Class: 75326989
 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. toy action figures 28.

Description ~ the sound of the famousTarzan yell. The mark is a yell consisting of a series of approximately ten sounds, alternating between the chest and falsetto registers of the voice, as follow - 1) a semi-long sound in the chest register, 2) a short sound up an interval of one octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound, 3) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 4) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 5) a long sound down one octave plus a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 6) a short sound up one octave from the preceding sound, 7) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 8) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 9) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 10) a long sound down an octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound.

Of course the most amusing of all would be the patent description of an unadulterated Harley Davisdon exhaust as potatoe, potatoe, potatoe, potatoe. Narcissus gazing into the chromework of the exhaust and Echo rebounding off the architecture as the beast cruises self-consciously down main street.

And the Beasts of the Field…

He who fights the monster should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee.

Frederick Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.

The final note on audio stress in urban environments concerns not the sardines packed into commuter trains but wildlife. Recent research has demonstrated that birds are singing louder and at higher pitches to communicate over the raised noisefloor of the city soundscape.  As urban noise pollution is biased towards lower frequency mechanical sounds (motors, air conditioners etc) birds are also responding by shifting register above these frequencies. Urban areas also tend to be more spatially open when compared to dense woodland settings, in which birds often favour lower pitched song to avoid signal reflection by foliage.

It was during the Cold War that US military sonar operators based in Bermuda, charged with identifying Russian submarines, initially identified and documented the singing of whales thus prompting the entire debate about their sentience. The Song of the Humpback Whale, produced by the biologist Dr. Roger Payne was released as an L.P. Record in 1970 (and subsequently re-released as a soundsheet in National Geographic’s January 1979 edition) selling 10.5 million copies, making it the most popular commercial recording of all time and instrumental in turning public awareness against the cruelty and avarice of the Whaling Industry.

The Song of the Humpback Whale is currently whirling through space (yet another Commons) broadcast from the Voyager I and Voyager II spacecraft for the delight and entertainment of all alien beings, but sadly it’s cousin the Sperm Whale still provides lubrication for craft such as the Hubble telescope, cetacean DNA evaporating into the Cosmos.

For better or worse whales are sonic beings, both served and imperiled by sound. In 1946 the British equipped a postwar generation of Whale ships with military submarine detection sonar to locate whales and then employed ultrasonic nets to entrap their prey.

The militarisation of the whale’s sonic world continues with the current legal battle concerning the US Military encroachment of the Deep Channel strata of the oceans, using them for mid and low frequency active sonar detection, but with lethal consequences for whales.  The US court has recently upheld the military’s right to deploy such low frequency systems despite conclusive evidence that demonstrates the signals resonate the internal ear of whales destroying their hearing and depriving them of their ability to navigate, resulting in many standings and deaths.

However the final irony is surely reserved for the Japanese whalers, those factory ships are deploying a US military technology, LRAD arrays (Long Range Acoustic Devices) as sonic weapons against the anti-whaling activists onboard the Sea Shepherd, intended to cause nausea, distress and hearing damage amongst the activist crew.

Sonar echoes fade into the deep blue and the military gaze like Narcissus without heeding the words of the sage ~ And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. Footnotes.

1. Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology possessed an iron bed upon which he invited his visitors to lie. The taller guests who proved too long for the bed were subject to amputation, whilst the shorted visitors were stretched until they fit nicely!

2. Half-Space ~ a term for the hemispherical space that sound is propagated in an outdoor context with no objects to reflect the sound apart from the ground plane.

3. AudioNomad Research Group, developers of location sensitive, interactive sonic maps. Augmented Audio Reality refers to a system in which allows an auditor to experience ambient/local sounds whilst simultaneously overlaying these with additional audio information. Virtual Audio Reality refers to a system that immerses an auditor in a dynamic and spatially active audio environment, which may or may not be linked to a corresponding visual domain (real or virtual). The audio supplied is intended as a total environment and supplants any local or ambient sound. VAR is not essentially concerned with a functional relationship to events and objects in physical reality, it is best employed in totally VR environments or where there is a desire to diminish or suppress the links between the visual and the aural in the quotidian world (as in the iPod). AAR on the other hand has a vital concern to link synthetic audio events and compositional; strategies with aspects of the physical environment through which the AudioNomad is navigating (whilst simultaneously navigating the parallel cartographic/ sonographic software).

4. The Art of Memory Francis Yates, University of Chicago Press,1966.

5. In a still more embryonic state is our recognition of the evils of the commons in matters of pleasure.There is almost no restriction on the propagation of sound waves in the public medium.The shopping public is assaulted with mindless music, without its consent. Our government is paying out billions of dollars to create supersonic transport which will disturb 50,000 people for every one person who is whisked from coast to coast 3 hours faster.Advertisers muddy the airwaves of radio and television and pollute the view of travelers.We are a long way from outlawing the commons in matters of pleasure. Is this because our Puritan inheritance makes us view pleasure as something of a sin,and pain (that is,the pollution of advertising) as the sign of virtue? TheTragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin, 1968 Published in Science, December 13, 1968.

6. Schafer, Raymond Murray (1977).The Tuning of the World. Random House Inc. ISBN 0394409663.

7. Confessions a series of thirteen autobiographical texts by St.Augustine of Hippo written between AD 397 and AD 398.

8. Acousmatics (from the Greek Akousma: what is heard) has its origins with the teaching of Pythagora who concealed himself behind a veil so that his students could concentrate. It refers to electroacoustic music rendered by speakers and projected into the auditorium without the visual attributes of performers or instruments.

9. Simplex ~ a one way broadcast system (eg Television).

10. Garth Paine ~ Australian sound artist and composer (http://

TAG : Essays

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