Aural Diversity Conferences

The first Aural Diversity Conference will take place on Saturday November 30th and Sunday December 1st 2019 at the University of Leicester.

Academic papers will be given in the George Davies Centre. Artists' statments and performances will take place in the Attenborough Arts Centre. Location Maps HERE.

The conference will coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The programme is as follows:


9.00-9.30 Registration. University of Leicester, George Davies Centre (GDC)

9.30-9.45 Welcome. (GDC) Andrew Hugill/John Levack Drever (15 mins)

10.00-11.30 SESSION 1: Hearing & Listening 1 (GDC). Chaired by John Drever

Keynote 1: Alinka Greasley (40 mins) “Exploring the music listening behaviour of people with hearing impairments: patient and practitioner perspectives”.

This talk will critically examine how hearing impairments and the use of hearing aid technology affect musical listening and performance. Drawing on data collected as part of the AHRC-funded Hearing Aids for Music project (2015-2019), it will highlight how a wide range of interrelating factors shape the musical experiences of hearing impaired individuals. This includes the configuration and severity of hearing loss, the types of music listened to and performed (e.g. style, instrument played, venues/settings), the way(s) in which hearing aid technology is set up, and differences in attitudes towards aural rehabilitation (e.g. mindset, willingness to experiment with technologies). The talk will then focus on how individual differences can be accounted for within clinical audiological practice, drawing on insights from practitioners who described strategies for addressing musical needs in clinic, including tips for programming aids for music, and emphasised the importance of taking individuals’ specific musical needs into account. Overall, data show that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ with regards to fitting hearing aids for music, and the often processes of trial and error, and adaptation over time are needed to achieve satisfactory listening outcomes.

William Davies (20 mins) “Autistic Listening”

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed by differences in social interaction and communication. Most autistic people also experience atypical sensory processing (e.g., a heightened sensitivity to sound or texture). Nearly all autism research uses a deficit model, where differences between autistic and non-autistic people are characterised as impairments of the autistic people. In contrast, a handful of researchers have sought and found evidence of autistic superiority. For example, Remington and Fairnie (2017) reported autistic adults to have a greater auditory perceptual capacity: they could keep track of more simultaneous sounds than their non-autistic counterparts. Moreover, anecdotal accounts from autistic people suggest that there may be much more to be discovered about autistic perceptual organization, if a deficit model is abandoned. Lay language reports from individuals suggest strengths in aural awareness, in extracting structure and patterns, in sensitivity to small changes at different scales, in identifying sounds, places and processes, and more. Exercising these abilities is sometimes associated with pleasure and a heightened sense of embodiment. This paper will briefly review anecdotal and structured evidence of autistic listening, from the perspective of an autistic psychoacoustics researcher. Future research directions and possible experiments will be suggested.

Matt Lewis (20 mins) “Listening with Deafblindness”

In a society which values productivity over health and well-being, the radical potential of listening with, through and to deafblindness cannot be underestimated. Deafblind time places an emphasis on plasticity, on contingency and on non-productivity. There is no baseline in deafblindness, rather a complex range of pan-modal shifting affordances far more extreme than the term ‘sensory-loss’ acknowledges. Drawing on theories such as Queer time and Crip Time this current work is focusses on Deafblind Time. As Jonathan Sterne (2003) often points out; our understanding of audition and the tools of sound capture and reproduction have long had an intimate relationship with deafness. If following Sterne we place sensory loss at the centre of our understanding of listening cultures we must also be prepared to move away from a focus on just sensorial perception to a working with the tempo and rhythms of others. Even if those tempos of eating, sleeping, bodily functions etc. challenge normative ways of living in the world.

Lena Batra (20 mins) “Assisting the Musically Diverse Patient”

Hearing aids and remedial technology play a significant role in the auditory perception of music for an individual following peripheral aural change. From clinical observation over the last 10 years, however, the willingness and ability of individuals to engage with and benefit from the technology available to assist their music perception can encounter challenges. The process from audiogram to full music engagement can be complex involving several variables which may play out to various degrees between individuals – as we might expect in an aurally diverse population encountering a range of different audiological difficulties. This talk provides an overview, from a clinical perspective, of some of the factors that might come into play for the individual, alongside a discussion and demonstration of strategies for helping to address these. The talk will include full audio-visual demonstration to support key learning points.

11.30-12.00 Break

12.00-13.00 SESSION 2: Composing, Music & Sound Art 1. Attenborough Arts Centre (AAC). Chaired by Andrew Hugill

Jay Afrisando (15 mins) “The (Real) Laptop Music :))” (multimedia performance)

This stereo audiovisual fixed-media piece (2017, extended in 2019) emerged from a question about a laptop for composing activities: Is it used merely to operate software(s) or is it used as a main physical source of sound? The visual component of this piece is in a form of video samples of a laptop being touched, scratched, tapped, or hit, and the audio includes the sound corresponding to the visual. The composition includes direct aural source-bonding to the visual cues, while the sound sometimes may evoke acousmatic image. Projected on ‘a big stereo’, the audio may help project immersive sound to evoke haptic sense resulted from the acoustical energy propagation, while the visual may help evoke sense of haptic imagery. The piece’s general character is non-melodic, percussive, almost monophony, rhythmical, and occasionally granular and glitch-like. The piece contains extremity of contrasts of timbres, loudness, aural & visual rhythms, especially from the middle to the ending part of the piece, and includes low, mid-low, middle, mid-high, and high frequencies. The piece is projected on an LCD projector and diffused on a 6.1 system (6 loudspeakers and 1—or more—subwoofer): 3 loudspeakers on the left side (for the left channel) and the other 3 loudspeakers on the right side (for the right channel) to project ‘a big stereo’. It can be streamed into headphones and hearing aids, and audiences are welcome to wear earplugs while staying within/around the diffusion space. The duration of this piece is 9’39”.

Simon Allen (15 mins) “After Cornell” (multimedia performance)

After Cornell is a new work proposed for the first aural diversity conference, that combines music, British Sign Language, and projected text. This exploration of cross-media counterpoint as a language of enhanced accessibility, will reference ways of expanding our acquaintance with issues of aural diversity, whilst necessarily acknowledging issues pertinent to other forms of sensory diversity. The projected text will present a personal statement by the composer together with ideas for debate, whilst also making descriptive reference to the sounds heard. The BSL element will both sign the projected text and work independently, physicalizing compositional thinking and demonstrating BSL as visual poetry. Sonic and visual elements will operate as equal voices within the composition; underlining the musicality of words articulated through the micro choreography of BSL, and integrated into artistic language - a practice distinct from BSL as interpretation added in retrospect. In anticipation of an aurally diverse audience, the music will be visually stimulating and communicated at careful dynamic across the frequency spectrum. Additionally, the performance will incorporate a series of measured activities performed by a non-musician, generating rhythmic materials through non-musical tasking. It is hoped to demonstrate communicative tools for accessibility as aesthetically pleasing per se, and suggest that their research be incorporated into composition, performance, sound art and arts administration curricula. 4’ spoken/signed introduction 15’ performance. Stereo diffusion with one sub speaker. Projector.

Josephine Dickinson (15 mins) “ALPHABETULA” (performance)

My performance will include renderings of sound poems; ALPHABETULA (published in Magma 69), snow (published in This Place I Know Handstand Press) and/or Peat (published in EnglishOUP). These poems challenge the boundaries both between language, music and visual art and between cultural positions in the Deaf and hearing worlds and languages. They celebrate my experience of sound and language as a Deaf composer/artist/poet. They directly address different experiences of the auditory stimulus of voiced language and challenge assumptions around meaningful experience of semiotic sound units by hearing and d/Deaf alike. They enact complex relationships between geology, culture, dialect, sounds and units of language in the liminal eco-niche in which I practise. For the performance I will need a microphone on a stand and a table. Ideally, as the poems are highly visual in form I would like the use of equipment suitable to project images of the sound poems on a screen during performance.

13.00-14.00 LUNCH

14.00-15.40 SESSION 3: Hearing & Listening 2 (GDC). Chaired by Alinka Greasley.

Keynote 2 (40 mins): Peter Rea “Aural Diversity: the consequences of pathology and treatment. A surgeon’s perspective”.

Hearing loss is considered clinically in two broad classes: conductive and sensori-neural. The range of perceptions of hearing experienced by those with hearing loss demonstrate a much more complex picture than this simple dichotomy. The journey sound energy takes from the outside (or internal) world to the brain is full of potential sources of error. It passes through the external ear canal, across the ear drum, through the amplification of the three hearing bones (conductive) and is converted into a travelling energy wave in the cochlea which picks up the sound energy on tiny hair cells (sensori-). This is then converted into an electrical neuronal signal in the cochlea nerve (-neural), before entering the brain for processing at multiple levels for us to “perceive.” The consequences of both pathology and treatments at each of these levels will be analysed to provide insight into why the perception of the same sound varies so widely between different individuals, and how we are trying to overcome this.

Samuel Couth (20 mins) ”The show must go on: understanding the effects of musicianship, noise exposure, cognition and ageing on real-world hearing abilities.”

Musicians may be at a greater risk of hearing loss and tinnitus (i.e. ringing in the ears) due to exposure to loud music on a daily basis. Hearing difficulties are particularly problematic for musicians as they may impact on performance abilities; limit employment opportunities; and impact on general wellbeing. Conventional measures of hearing loss (audiometry) do not reliably predict the most commonly reported hearing problem; following a conversation in a noisy environment. Therefore, some hearing deficits might go undetected (termed ‘hidden hearing loss’), and the effects of noise exposure on musicians’ hearing may have been underestimated. However, studies investigating noise-induced hidden hearing loss and/or speech-in-noise processing abilities in musicians have produced mixed findings. One possible explanation is that the effects of hidden hearing loss are not apparent until later in life, where studies to date have mostly included a relatively young participant cohort. Conversely, regular noise exposure from a young age may have a protective effect through increased tolerance to noise or toughening of the ears, and thus could serve to maintain hearing health in musicians. Alternatively, the development of enhanced auditory and cognitive processing skills through musical training may counteract the effects of noise exposure on speech-in-noise perception. The aim of the paper presented here is to provide an overview of this research area, and to summarise the interactions between the effects of musicianship, cognition, age and noise exposure on hearing abilities. Future research could consider these factors when designing experimental studies to investigate hearing health in musicians.

Patrick Farmer (20 mins) “Dis/embodied Listening and Corporeal Thresholds”

Building on the work of my recent publication, Azimuth, the Ecology of an Ear, I will utilise the premise of ‘Aural Diversity’ by considering the body as ear. I will consider how an awareness of the auditory and vestibular body may transform dominant conceptions of listening and embodiment, noise, and soundscape in the arts. I will do this by drawing on examples from figures such as psychologist Paul Schilder, philosopher Simone Weil, and poet Gertrude Stein. I will also briefly discuss my own auditory and vestibular conditions, such as semicircular canal dehiscence, tinnitus, and autophony, and the ways they continue to affect my emotional health, my ability to listen, and influence my practice of corporeal listening.

Ed Garland (20 mins) “Textual hearing aids: how reading about sound can improve sonic experience”

My paper suggests that increasing one’s understanding of sound through reading can enhance one’s overall experience of life with hearing loss and tinnitus. The medical humanities scholars Cole, Carlin and Carlson argue that ‘reading narratives of illness attentively, expectantly, and reflectively can heighten our powers of perception’ (my emphasis). Likewise, people living with hearing loss and tinnitus are encouraged to gain more understanding of their problems through reading, and to read enjoyable books as a way to temporarily escape those problems. Between these two kinds of reading – the medically informative and the escapist – we are missing a bibliotherapeutic opportunity. I argue that there is a range of books, under the broad categories of ‘sound studies’ and ‘sonically-aware writing’, that have the potential to transform a person’s relationship with sound. Books like Augoyard and Torgue’s Sonic Experience can indeed ‘heighten our powers of perception’ by describing how ‘everyone hears in their own way’ and explaining how sonic effects emerge in the interrelationship between auditory events, people, and environments. I offer an account of how my experience of reading the detailed sonic observations made by Margiad Evans in her autobiographical writings had the effect of improving my sonic perceptions and lessened the distress caused by my noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. At a time when hearing loss is on the increase globally, reading accounts of listening experiences – what Salomé Voegelin calls ‘textual phonography’ – can, I argue, enhance a person’s auditory health by increasing their access to the diverse varieties of sonic experience.

15.40-16.00 Break

16.00-17.00 SESSION 4: Panel Discussion - Aural Diversity (GDC). Chaired by Dr Simon Atkinson. Panel includes keynote speakers (John Drever, Alinka Greasley, Andrew Hugill, Peter Rea). Contributions from the floor invited.

17.00-19.30 DINNER

19.30-21.30 SESSION 5: Aural Diversity Concert #2 (AAC). Led by Duncan Chapman.

Programme tbc.



9.00-9.30 Late registrations, organisational questions.

9.30-10.30 SESSION 6: Composing, Music & Sound Art 2 (GDC). Chaired by John Drever

Keynote 3: Andrew Hugill (40 mins) “Consequences of Ménière’s Disease and other forms of hearing impairment for musicians, their music-making, hearing care and technologies”.

This paper presents the results of a qualitative research study undertaken during 2018/19. The main purpose of the research was to reach a better understanding of how Ménière’s Disease and other forms of hearing impairment affect musicians and their music. A secondary purpose was to provide recommendations for improving hearing care and hearing technology. The study consisted of semi-structured interviews with two groups of professional, semi-professional or amateur musicians. The Ménière’s Disease Group (MDG) comprised eight musicians with a formal diagnosis of Ménière’s Disease. The Other Hearing Impairment (OHI) Group comprised seven musicians with other forms of hearing impairment. The groups were selected in order to place the MDG within a wider context of Aural Diversity. The method was therefore not a direct comparative study between the two groups, but rather a context-aware analysis of the MDG subset of the wider community of hearing-impaired musicians. Interview questions were grouped around eight broad themes: background; musicianship; hearing loss; other symptoms; musical perception; audiology; hearing aids (HA); general improvements.

Christopher Cook (20 mins) “Co-composing with Trevor, who has Mild Cognitive Impairment”

Scholarly attention has been increasingly drawn to the diversity of hearing abilities over the last decade, exploring myriad intersections of d/Deafness and histories of, inter alia, technology, politics, and sociality. Hearing is affected by other conditions, however, and these effects have received less emphasis thus far. In this paper, I will outline a case study from my research working with people who have a dementia. Trevor has mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a diagnosis which often precedes a formal dementia diagnosis, and of which the symptoms do not impact daily life quite so severely. He is a keen amateur musician, playing recorder, oboe, violin, and piano. Music-making forms a large part of Trevor’s social life, and it has been impacted by his hyperacusis. Changes in hearing abilities are amongst the first symptoms of dementias, and the specific abilities affected correlate with different types of dementia. Traditional qualitative research methods are not readily applicable in understanding how these kinds of sensory experience interweave with daily life, though, so I have developed a ‘co-compositional’ approach. This involves collaborating with informants to make sound art expressing the elements of their listening experiences that they consider most important. In doing so, my hope is to suggest one possible answer to Jonathan Sterne’s call in Keywords in Sound for a sound studies that “begins with hearing the hearing of others” (2015: 74).

10.30-11.00 Break

11.00-12.00 SESSION 7: Composing, Music & Sound Art 3 (GDC). Chaired by John Drever

Balandino Di Donato, Tychonas Michailidis, Christopher Dewey (20 mins) “SoundSculpt: sculpting and experiencing sound-objects through mid-air haptics and holographic projection.”

We present SoundSculpt, a system prototype that facilitates people to design and experience sound through cross-modal feedback: auditory, visual and haptic. We consider sound as a tangible and visible virtual object rendered in the physical space through holographic projection and mid-air haptic feedback. We call “sound-object”, the virtual entity generated through holographic projection, haptic and auditory feedback. This definition differs from the Schaefferian definition of an object sonore (Schaeffer 1966), which refers to a sound event over time that is perceptually separated from its source (e.g. the sound of a door slamming played through a loudspeaker). SoundSculpt is inspired by previous work from Di Donato and Michailidis (2019) on a system easing the interaction with digital signage to visually impaired people. We combine this system with visualisation too by Dewey and Wakefield (2019) presenting the sound-object as a deformable container, whose shape is determined by its associated spectral signature. With an interaction style analogous to moulding and sculpting, the user is able to boost and attenuate the objects constituent frequency components by interacting directly with a visualisation of the container projected mid-air using hand gestures. SoundSculpt objective is to facilitate the exploration of spatial position, the morphology and casualty of sound; most importantly it tries to improve the sound experience to people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities through compensation with other senses. For example, a person with hearing disability can experience sound through touch and vision, so to better appreciate the intention of the sound artist, musician or composer.

Matthew Sansom (20 mins) “Aural and other perceptually diverse inclusivity in an example of interdisciplinary arts practice”

This paper discusses aural diversity in relation to notions of participation and accessibility. Its focus is the multimodal arts project [PBS]; as such, aural diversity, participation and accessibility are considered through the lens of interdisciplinary arts practice, rather than a purely aural one. Nevertheless, given that such interdisciplinarity can easily be understood as an extension to the idea of the ‘digital musician’ (Hugill, 2012) and today’s conflated technological literacies, the issues raised remain relevant to the conference theme, albeit in arguably expanded ways. PBS was developed following the ecological-arts research project Landscape Quartet [LQ] conducted between 2012 and 2015. LQ advocated philosophical positions arguing for the ‘interconnectivity of things’ and explored sonic and musical arts practices that were participative in approach. It sought to act from, acknowledge, and communicate proximity with and interconnectedness between the quartet members and the environments worked in. PBS is a response to and critique of the way LQ characterised participation and seeks a more direct way to incorporate our common existential status as ‘lifeworld participants’ regardless of subject position (e.g. ‘sojourner’ versus ‘artist’) or any individual’s particular perceptual characteristics. This is achieved by foregrounding modes of participation such as walking, watching, listening, feeling, stillness, reflecting, and so on, as well as through the flexibility afforded by the project’s multimodal optionality and the inclusion of the sojourner’s agency to shape the aesthetic/artistic encounter. As well as a paper discussing these themes a mobile site-specific sojourn will be created for conference participants and further discussion.

Matthew Spring (20 mins) “Thomas Mace: a functioning deaf musician and music theorist in the seventeenth-century”.

Mace’s Musick’s Monument is the most important English source of lute music after 1640 and contains 58 pieces in 8 ‘sets’ for solo lute plus other music for viol and theorbo. It is also one of the most important books on all aspects of musical practice from the seventeenth century. As well as being a lute and viol player Mace was an active teacher and singing man at Trinity College Cambridge from 1639 to his death in 1706. He was one of the most important music theorists of the seventeenth century and his discussion of affect in music is invaluable. Mace went deaf by the age of 50 yet continued his musical life as a player, singer and teacher. In response he modified his instruments to help him hear, devised an acoustical performing chamber to maximise the sound potential of an enclosed space, and invented new instruments. Interestingly Mace never liked in loudness for its own sake but always strived for an equality of sound that allowed all parts from highest to the lowest to be heard with clarity. This conference paper explores the ways that deafness affected his thinking on music and the practical steps he took to continue his professional musical life.

12.00-12.30 Break

12.30-13.30 SESSION 7: Soundscape, Environment & Acoustic Ecology 1 (GDC). Chaired by Alinka Greasley

Keynote 4: John Levack Drever (40 mins) “Phonating Hand Dryers: exploits in aural diverse composition and co-composition”.

The talk will chart and underline a series of concerns that have coalesced under the terms auraldiversity and auraltypical hearing (Drever 2015). Driven out of a desire to communicate research findings in an apt manner, this narrative will specifically explore the creative and interpretative practice that has accompanied a standard quantitative acoustic study of the noise impact of high-speed hand dryers in public WCs (Drever 2013) . On embracing the scope and complexity of aural diversity, however, finding an apt manner has been far from straightforward and is ongoing. Departing from the imposition of the composer’s ear towards a greater awareness of auditory positionality, the series of hand dryer sonic works (including acousmatic, site-specific installation, gallery and live performance) represent a range of composer /performer/ audience relationships, the most successful of which have been a process/ workshop based compositional approach bringing together multiple authors through the method of phonating, an approach that echoes and yet challenging Tomatis’ Law on Audition and Phonation: ‘The voice reproduces only what the ear can hear’ (Tomatis 1963/ 1996:87).

Karla Berrens Torruella (20 mins) “Sound, discomfort and the making of place in an urban environment.”

This paper explores alternative ways of hearing and inhabiting space in an urban environment in Barcelona. In the last three years I have closely worked with two associations of people with diverse functionality, in the spectrum of blindness and deaf-blindness respectively. I have explored the notions of nosiception and comfort as well as their reflection on the making of place. In what ways does experiencing pain or discomfort from the urban ambiance constraint the experience one has of the city? What can the city do in order to really work for all its inhabitants in sensory terms? In this paper, I dwell on the participatory fieldwork carried in order to propose what kind of adjustments in urban design (technological or else) may aid to better accommodate diversity in hearing. I conclude with an argument for evolving cities towards the idea of the city being for every person instead of the flattening that the homogenisation in their development has had.

13.30-14.00 LUNCH

14.00-15.00 SESSION 9: Artists’ Statements (AAC). Chaired by John Drever

Alan Jacques (20 mins) “A Tale of Two Inner Ears - Learning to live with Cochlear Amusia”

Ménière’s disease, best known as a disorder of balance causing severe vertigo attacks, also damages the transducing function of the anatomical inner ear – the cochlea. Particularly in people with bilateral Ménière’s, this leads to distortions in pitch perception, varying from mild diplacusis to complete amusia, the inability to recognize music. Alan Jacques describes his experience as an amateur pianist in coming to terms with these changes and continuing to play. He also discusses his attempts to understand that experience and how it relates to the pathology of Ménière’s disease, and the importance of the psychological ‘inner ear’ in musical perception.

Josephine Dickinson (20 mins) “ALPHABETULA”

As a Deaf composer/artist/poet I practise a poiesis in the rich hinterland between language and sound, sound and sign, sign and sema, and on the edge of what is often described as wilderness in the high Pennines of Cumbria. Recent works challenge narratives of meaning and boundaries between senses and artistic media (for example, ALPHABETULA (published in Magma 69), snow (published in This Place I KnowHandstand Press) and Peat (published in EnglishOUP) especially in live performance). I make no distinction in my work between composition in sound, words and visual forms. In his book Listening and Voice, Don Ihde develops the point that there is no essential phenomenological distinction between light, sound, touch, smell and taste. It is a distinction in the neural pathways. And so, what do any limitations on those pathways mean in terms of creativity? A photograph, after all, cannot happen without an aperture in the camera. It is required to be both open for a measured instant, and more or less tiny. There are precise mathematical relationships that govern the relationship between these parameters. As makers, as artists, what are the many different forms of pinholes that we invent and make use of? We choose sound, colour and line, gradations of light and dark, movement between consonance and dissonance, a certain material, words. Then we choose, by whatever means and criteria, a method, which may be as prescriptive as an algorithm, or as intuitive as improvisation.

Lena Batra (20 mins) “Embracing the Inbetween”

Despite my professional training, this talk is a personal rather than a professional account. I will be talking about the impact of losing my hearing in childhood. I want to take you through the journey of what my life was like before and after the loss of my hearing and to outline the significant challenges I faced in navigating the gulf that presented itself to me between hearing and reduced hearing worlds. I am aiming to be completely emotionally honest to help you to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to lose a communication sense. In this talk I hope to give you an understanding of the elements and experience that a professional or academic paper can’t capture and to explain the impact hearing loss had on me and on those around me. I will tell you about how I coped and eventually thrived despite my hearing loss, explaining the part for me that music played in this. I will explain how music has always been a steer throughout my life regardless of hearing loss - but that it was my very near loss of music that led me to recognise the vital role that music plays in our sense of connection to ourselves and the world around us. Through this experience and personal understanding, I have turned my interest in my professional role towards developing music rehabilitation programs for people with reduced hearing.

15.00-15.30 Break

15.30-16.30 SESSION 10: Soundscape, Environment & Acoustic Ecology 2 (GDC). Chaired by Andrew Hugill

Meri Kytö (20 mins) “Cochlear implant as soundscape arranger: rethinking the signal-to-noise ratio”

The relationship to the sensory environment is becoming more and more technologically mediated. Everyday heard sonic environments (soundscapes) are often mediated for us or by us, by infrastructures sustained by pervasive technology, and for many the sonic environment is enhanced and processed by a sound processor located in their hearing device. People living with cochlear implants hear their environment through microphones and code. Understanding the interfaces between the audio signal and the self, and the environment and language, brings forward the challenges of regularizing sonic phenomena to signal-to-noise automation. This paper examines embodied human–technology- relationships by asking how a coded soundscape shapes our understanding of acoustemology (knowing place by listening) and what kind of listening agency is given to the implant. These questions are approached with an empirical study: a one year ethnography with an adult informant adapting and learning to listen with two cochlear implants. The research is part of an Academy of Finland project ACMESOCS examining diverse auditory cultures, particularly how they are articulated, experienced and reclaimed within the acoustic environments of different sized cities.

Johan Malmstedt (20 mins) “Ecological Ears: Modes of Listening in the Writings of Murray Schafer and Bernie Kraus”

This paper examines the significance of normative hearing in the evolution of bioacoustics. By examining conceptions of listening in the influential works of sound ecologists Murray Schafer and Bernie Krause, the aim is to outline the critical relationship between natural soundscape analysis and audist ideology. The turn of the century have seen a progressive expansion of the field of bioacoustics. The speed of the technological progression of sound recording is only triumphed by the accelerated extinction of natural sound sources. Today, psychologists and biologists alike praise recorded natural sound for its beneficial influence on human psychology and science. Despite this expansion of the field, little is yet said of the conceptions of sound and the modes of listening at stake. The heritage of Schafer and Krause still constitutes a fundamental influence in the field. Their writing progressed the conception of the natural word as musically structured, laying ground to the study of nature as sonic harmony. This paper outlines the musical mode of listening at the center of their theory. Borrowing H.D.L Baumans definition of audism, the analysis emphasises the phonocentrism of a bioacoustics grounded in an epistemology of music. The aim of this critical reading is to advance the question of a pluralist, bioacoustic listening, and to accentuate the diversity of ecological ears.

William Renel (20 mins) “The Auditory Normate: A Critical Narrative of Sound and Social Inclusion in Design”

The multiplicity of ways that sonic thinking and practice intersects with issues of accessibility, inclusion and social equity in cultural institutions and public spaces remains under researched in the fields of Inclusive Design and Sound Studies and narrowly represented in accessibility and acoustics legislation. Such concerns of sonic in/exclusion are contextualised by what Goodman (2010) terms ‘audiosocial predeterminations’ (class, gender, race etc.) or what Stoever (2016: 13) describes as the ‘listening ear . . . a socially constructed ideological system producing but also regulating cultural ideas about sound’. This paper will attend to such issues by exploring a series of critical questions raised during research undertaken at the Royal College of Art between 2015 - 2019. Namely: How does the design of the contemporary urban sound environment privilege the embodied experiences of an idealised sonic citizen? How does the design of public space communicate the dominant auditory values and ideologies of designers and acousticians? How do divergent (sonic) perspectives negotiate the everyday of normative sonic embodiments and homogenised sonic interactions? The paper will foreground the perspectives of d/Deaf and disabled people in socially public spaces in the UK such as Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre in London. Ultimately, the paper presents a practice-led opposition to the developing perspective of ‘the auditory normate’ – defined as an ableist system of designed oppression composed of auditory values and practices that produce and reinforce normative hearing and communication, thereby sculpting auraldiversity and auditory differences as devalued states of existence.

16.30-17.00 SESSION 11: Plenary discussion (GDC). Chaired by John Drever. Questions to be sought from delegates in advance of the conference. The discussion will also focus on planning of future events and research.

17.00 Close

Available for viewing throughout the conference:

David Holzman (movie, 30 mins) “Deep River - A Pianist’s Journey With Hearing Loss”

David Holzman is an internationally acclaimed pianist. This film describes Holzman’s experiences with hearing loss and with various hearing devices. He lost virtually all of the hearing in his left ear as a child. Musical effects such as touch were subtle but ultimately needed to be confronted and overcome. Three decades later, he lost much of the hearing in his right ear. After a hiatus, he resumed his career and began a series of recordings of many of the 20thCentury’s most challenging masterpieces. Holzman demonstrates the various means by which he felt and ultimately heard tones, chords, colors and textures. Digital awareness, rhythmic memory and thinking ahead were means by which he ultimately heard and mastered complex works. After a disastrous experience with a hearing aid, Holzman had a cochlear implant installed and a new hearing aid. This film concludes with a description of this four-year journey in which musicality and unity between the two sides of his head was slowly achieved. This struggle was exemplified by three recordings which Holzman completed during this period. Examples from the music illustrate the trials and triumphs of his efforts.



Sara Stowe (soprano) and Matthew Spring (early instruments)

Apollo, Orpheus, Midas and Pan. Hearing and mythology in early song.

December 3rd 2019, 12:45-1:45pm (approximate) in the Main Hall, Attenborough Arts Centre.

This concert is given both as part of the ‘Soundbites’ series and the first Aural Diversity Conference. It also coincides with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is supported by the University of Leicester. As Ovid relates, Pan inventor of syrinx, was so proud of his skill in music, he disparaged Apollo’s lyre playing. Apollo challenged Pan to a competition to be judged by the mountain god Tmolus. Tmolus ruled in favour of Pan but the Phygian king Midas was so charmed by Pan’s flute that he called the decision unjust. To punish Midas, Apollo gave him asses ears and in some accounts deafness. Another Greek deity associated with the lyre was Orpheus and myths relating to Orpheus’s power in music are as integral to the song tradition of the renaissance as to the baroque. This concert explores the recurring theme of hearing developed from classical mythology in songs from the middle ages to the early baroque. From Machaut to Monteverdi Matthew Spring and Sara Stowe perform songs that relate to the sense of hearing and the Greek gods associated with music, hearing and sound.

About the keynote speakers:

  • John Levack Drever is Professor of Acoustic Ecology and Sound Art, and Head of the Unit for Sound Practice Research (SPR), Goldsmiths College.
  • Alinka Greasley is Associate Professor in Music Psychology at University of Leeds, and Director of the Hearing Aids for Music project.
  • Andrew Hugill is a former Professor of Music, and is now Professor of Creative Computing at University of Leicester.
  • Peter Rea is Chairman of the British Society of Neuro-Otology, and ENT surgeon at University Hospitals Leicester.

The conference registration fee will be £25 (£10 for students, senior citizens, disabled and registered unemployed people). Tickets will be made available via this website soon.