Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Scorescapes: On Sound, Environment and Sonic Consciousness
Yolande Harris
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Leiden University
Thesis Supervisor
Prof Frans de Ruiter
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
David Dunn, Dr. Bob Gilmore
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Academy for Creative and Performing Arts, Faculty of Humanities
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Sound, score, environment, sonification, inaudible, cetacean, underwater sound, techno-intuition, listening
Abstract: 200-500 words
Scorescapes investigates how sound mediates our relationship to the environment, and how contemporary multidisciplinary art practices can articulate this relationship. It joins my own artistic research on this topic with a theoretical analysis of the field, highlighting the way that relationships to environment drawn through sound are profoundly bound up with technology. Key concepts include: making the inaudible audible; underwater sound and cetacean communication; field recordings and the contextual basis of sound; typologies of listening; the score as relationship; and techno-intuition. Working closely with composers David Dunn, Alvin Lucier and Pauline Oliveros, and bio-acoustic scientist Michel André, I tested and applied theoretical ideas, generating unexpected artistic research questions and methods. These included the need to distinguish between audification, sonification and visualization processes, the paucity of research on underwater sonic environments and the anthropocentric bias towards environmental sound. Scorescapes negotiates a new role for the artist and composer. As a research partner, the artist creates hybrid methods and develops alternative forms of knowledge that heighten personal awareness through direct engagement with sonic environments. Scorescapes builds on my prior artistic research on sonic navigations, for example, Taking Soundings (2007) and Sun Run Sun (2008). The dissertation develops theoretical arguments and analyzes historical examples to propose an expanded notion of the musical score that facilitates relationship, where the score exists in the mind and in space. I use this idea of the ‘scorescape’ to examine the central question: What does it mean to relate to the environment through sound? I investigate parallels between Acoustic Ecology and Land Art, ecology and systems aesthetics, and the legacy of walking as an art form embodying relationship to environment. My research on the sonic qualities of the underwater environment (that functions largely through sound) leads to questions of ‘place’ in field recordings in general, resulting in my proposal for an embodied engagement with environmental recordings. The concluding chapter synthesizes the ideas developed in my research by taking a more personal approach to analyzing my own art works, which include audio-visual installations and performances, performative lectures, electronic instruments, sonic walks and collaborations with improvising musicians. Through the artistic process of making Pink Noise, Fishing for Sound, Tropical Storm and other works, I recognized the central importance of considering the context in which sounds occur rather than exclusively the qualities of a sound itself. From this perspective, the act of composition emphasizes a renewed focus on listening – and new typologies of listening - in order to understand sounds in relationship to their environment, and enabling other listeners to do the same. The Scorescapes research project maps historical approaches to, and suggests potential trajectories for, sound, technology, environment and sonic consciousness. The environment is continuously being developed and transformed by human intervention. Understanding sound’s role in these transformations can open up greater awareness of the interrelation of factors that can lead towards more sustainable practices in the arts as well as science and other fields. The dissertation concludes by proposing a notion of ‘techno-intuition’, which combines technological and intuitive ways of knowing and can be applied to artistic research and instrument design for interaction with the environment.