‘Understanding Underwater’ in Interference Journal

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Understanding Underwater: the Art and Science of Interpreting Whale Sounds‘, online Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture Issue 2 ‘A Sonic Geography: Rethinking Auditory Spatial Practices’, June 2012 .

Abstract: This paper considers the importance of underwater sound. Making this inaudible environment audible to limited human hearing capabilities demands technical, imaginative and interpretative approaches to sound. Transdisciplinary approaches that treat sound as sonic evidence, suggest a shifted role for the composer and sonic ecologist. My analysis joins three seminal works on whale sound: Payne and McVay’s ‘Songs of Humpback Whales’, André and Kamminga’s ‘Rythmic Dimension in the Echolocation of Click Trains of Sperm Whales’ and Alvin Lucier’s Quasimodo: The Great Lover. Through a critical comparison of the scientists’ use of musical ideas of song and rhythm with the composer’s interest in processes of sound transmission over long distances, the necessity of exploring the contextual nature of sound in the environment becomes apparent. To this end I propose the physiological experience of sound in order to understand the sonic contexts of remote environments, exemplified by artworks from my Scorescapes project, Pink Noise, Fishing for Sound and Swim.