Audio Collage

I just came across a very cool website, HyperAcousia, run by Joan Schuman, a radio/sound artist and New School faculty member. When you consider how often we are bombarded by visual images it is a pleasant surprise to visit a web site that’s all about sound.

If you do any type of creative work, play the MP3s in the background and allow them to inspire your art to head in various directions. Or sit with her audio collages and listen for your own enjoyment, preferably with high quality headphones.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you how odd it is to simply listen to something. Sure I listen to music, but often times I’m singing along to songs that I already know and picturing the music videos that someone else created. And if I change the channel and tune into talk radio there’s nothing to create because no one is showing me anything – they’re too busy telling.

Unlike the Mr. Roger’s days of my youth when a single camera and stationary viewpoint shaped my world I now not only experience but expect different camera angles and believable visual affects. I want the bird’s eye AND head on views. I want to see the characters talking. I want a close up of the baby crying or a foot stepping on a squeaking floor board. I want the visual image to endorse what I’m hearing to ensure that I’m “getting” what I’m supposed to be understanding. On some level I require the visual to understand my world thus I enjoy when it’s served up to me on a silver platter rather than creating it on my own in my head.

What about books you ask and the visualization required when reading? Sure I can create an image in my head, but it’s based on what the author tells me. I just finished Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings. Obviously the title alone shaped the floating object that I fabricated in my mind.

Thus when I first clicked on to Joan’s site and was given the opportunity to let my mind be as creative as it wanted – it took me a few minutes before the images rose to the surface of my imagination. At that point is was as if my brain couldn’t handle things and I found myself listening to her while simultaneously clicking away at my computer. Then I’d start to read something online only to realize that I couldn’t focus on two different stories at the same time. The visual one, the one with letters, words and pictures grabbed my attention and took over from the one streaming into my ears. I had to log off my mac and force myself to focus only on Joan.

Of course it was worth it. Not only did she entertain me, but she stimulated my thinking and creativity. But I have to be honest, the whole visual versus auditory thing got me thinking, what do I bypass out there in the world on a daily basis by relying so much on what I can see?

  1. What auditory information am I misinterpreting or overlooking (pardon the pun) all together?
  2. What do I elude by sending an email rather than making a phone call?
  3. I can’t remember the last time I heard a good joke delivered by a funny friend because they always arrive via my inbox and then I pass them on to someone else.
  4. If I’m listening to a new song and become baffled by the words instead of figuring it out myself I google it because I know that someone somewhere has posted the lyrics online. Alas, there’s only a bad moon on the rise, never a bathroom room on the right.

Yesterday I was watching Donnie Darko when I accidentally hit a button on my laptop that put the English subtitles on the screen. I didn’t remove them. This led me to hit the fast forward button and forgo the sound all together so that I could more quickly read the dialog and expedite my movie watching experience when I felt the action was moving too slowly. How fucked up is that? The weird thing was that I had nowhere to be and nothing pressing to do. I just wanted to get to the end quicker.

Clearly, I have issues.

So if you want to break free from your compulsive need to always spy with your little eye, check out Joan’s site and give your auditory system a little tune up. If you’re like me, you’re probably overdue. Enjoy.

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