In and Out of Listening

In completing this assignment, I tried to think of what aural elements of a typical day I wanted to portray. I was thus forced to open my ears, and try to objectively hear my surroundings in a way that I don’t always do. I won’t claim to have listened critically for the whole time that I was making recordings, but I did stop and consciously listen more carefully on many occasions. One thing that I became more conscious of, was how often I chose to put on my headphones in my commute between classes. When and where I would take my headphones off and switch from an isolated, immersive, musical experience, to the ambient sounds around me, became a focus of my interest on this assignment. In the past month or so, I’ve been using a new pair of headphones, and in many ways there ability to isolate sound so effectively has changed my soundscape significantly on the days I choose to bring them with me. I tried to portray the jarring nature of going between a few songs that I might listen to throughout the day, and the sounds I hear when I don’t have them on.

Having the frequent juxtaposition between absence of ambient noise, and then the sounds I hear upon removing my headphones—at times a bombardment of external, ‘random,’ sounds—can be bit jarring at times, but it also provides insight towards the different nature of the two sound types. It often takes a fraction of a second to readjust to the wider soundscape provided in the real world around me, one that headphones fail to simulate effectively. I think the move from a single recorded sound source—played in an enclosed circumaural acoustic environment—to the array of different sound sources going on in most areas of campus during the day, takes a brief adjusting to. I am reminded of both the Chion and Horowitz articles; on the one hand because of the kind of listening I am practicing, and on the other because of the potential impact my choice to listen to electronic music through much of the day may have on my overall ability to discern and pick apart different elements of the ‘natural’ sounds around me.

Depending on when, where, or why I choose to take off my headphones, I am most likely moving from reduced listening of the recording to causal, and/or semantic listening of my surroundings. As the muffs come off, I begin to consider the location of whatever it is that I’m hearing first. If there’s talking, I simultaneously process what is being said, whether it relates to me or not, and discern meaning from the words. When I’m listening to music, it is typically in the realm of reduced listening, though at times it is a combination of reduced and semantic if there are lyrics that I’m focusing on. Interestingly, Chion says that “reduced listening is an enterprise that is new, fruitful, and hardly natural. It disrupts established lazy habits and opens up a world of previously unimagined questions for those who try it” (Chion, pg. 51). This contradicts, to some extent, Horowitz’s assertion that “Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload” (Horowitz, pg. 2), because I am, in affect, able to more closely listen to certain sounds because of the technology I own. Let me explain this further in the context of the recordings.

The first sound that plays in my playlist is that of me brushing my teeth, next you’ll hear the sound of the toilet flushing, and then the sound of the shower running. These sounds have become so routine, that it wasn’t until I listened to the recordings and could replay the sounds, that I could start to hear them more objectively. It is the recording capability itself that allows me to focus “…on the sound itself, independent of its cause and of its meaning. Reduced listening takes the sound—verbal, played on an instrument, noises, or whatever—as itself the object to be observed instead of as a vehicle for something else” (Chion, pg. 50). The tin sound of the water hitting the drain grate of the sink, the almost metallic nature of the toilet flush, and the subtle change in sound as I closed the shower curtain all became apparent to me after my initial listening. After showering I get dressed (which I didn’t record), and head outside with my headphones (I simply uploaded a portion of a track I might listen to on any given day to re-create the affect). The next sound after that is of my first Tuesday class convening—before the teacher has begun the lecture. After sitting down, the instant I take my headphones off I actually feel that I am more in tune with what I’m hearing. After having been so focused on the music, and so isolated from the sounds of my surrounding, the sudden confrontation with those sounds forces me to consider more of their elements than I might have if I weren’t fluctuating between ambient and electronically sourced listening. After my class, I went to the library, and the first sound I heard upon taking my headphones off briefly while on the third floor was that of someone highlighting a paper on a desk near me. I could almost feel the felt tip grazing against the tooth of the paper. This took almost no time for my brain to locate, identify, and then imagine. I looked over the edge of the desk, and sure enough—a highlighter on paper. This is another example of the causal listening Chion was talking about, however it wasn’t until I listened to the recording again that I could analyze why my mind knew it was the highlighter on paper. This was very interesting to me, because though I knew what it was, I couldn’t articulate the reason(s) why, until I had given the sound a reduced listen.


Works Cited

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Songs used in the order they appear (artist, then song title):

Barika. Good Morning

Lupe Fiasco. Daydreamin’ (feat. Jill Scoot).

Black Keys. I’m not the one.

Gramatik. Don’t Let Me Down

A Day With Jack, My Dog

Begins: 8:09 February 9, 2013

Ends: 8:23 February 10, 2013

            This 24-hour and 14-minute section of my life begins on a frigid Vermont eve, as my dog, mom, and I jump in the car to drive home to our 20×18 Foot, waterless, three room skiing camp. It used to be a hunting camp but the moose head and rifles shipped out about eight years ago when my mom stumbled upon the hidden oasis. With a bubbling brook, willowing pines, miles of snowy kingdoms, and infrequent snowmobiles, this house has been a haven for rest, relaxation, and escape.

My day begins at 8:09 the night before with Jack quiet and unnoticed in the back, and my mom’s distinguished voice cutting in above the loud and bumpy noise of the car rattling over the road. The first two recordings capture these combatting sounds of the drive home. My mom’s voice represents all three of Chion’s methods of listening, causal, semantic, and reduced because I’m listening and I know it’s to my mom, processing the words she’s saying, and I’m also catching the strain in her voice. On the other hand, when my mom isn’t speaking the ambient sounds of the car, the tires, the gravel, and the snow, are heard as a simple causal background and don’t undergo the reduced listening gaze. This contrast between the two recordings displays an interesting correlation between what humans might consider ambient noise, and what they might focus on more readily and understand more fully. As I listen to my mom’s voice, I can’t help but hear the effort in her voice, also known as her intonation. When the ambient noise returns to the solo stage, it seems almost subconsciously ignored. Since there isn’t a human voice speaking words that have meaning, the hearing sense returns to its most basic and easiest function, causal listening. Much like Horowitz discusses, it seems as if since nothing “dangerous or wonderful is [any]where within the kilometer or so that [my] ears can detect,” I am at ease and paying very little acute attention to my surroundings (Horowitz 1). Because I was comfortable and safe in the car, my auditory alert system was diluted and fuzzier.

 Next comes a short excerpt of couch life from inside the cozy camp. The thirty-four seconds of camp ambience, represented by my mom’s cooing of my dog and her subtle typing, are overlaid with another more prominent level of sound. Whilst I was surrounded by the natural rhythms of my home, quite comfortable and at ease, I was also using technology, my laptop, to watch a short bit of BBC’s Planet Earth documentary series. The squawking of birds followed by heavy flapping and screeching exceptionally simulates a short auditory experience of a jungle. I think this soundscape would greatly interest Professor Horowitz because of his interest in the apparent attack of technology. What is most interesting is my paradox of immersing my mind in sounds and images of nature, through the use of hearing’s worst enemy: the humdrum of modern technology. Horowitz claims listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction an information overload,” but it seems technologically simulated nature is becoming extremely effective as we progress (2). I would question whether this is a positive or negative development in our auditory relations with our machine world and the natural world.

The next morning begins my daily maneuvers, which appear as a semi-routine when taken as a group of three. My first task, as every other morning I get the chance, I turn on my computer, rub the sleep from my eyes, put some water on to heat, and throw on Twiddle’s When it Rains it Poors. Next I scratchily get dressed for the day, today’s different though; it’s an adventure day. I pull on Under Armour, Hot Chilly leggings, warm socks, a breathable athletic shirt, and then toss on my Patagonia pullover. The shifty sounds of this short excerpt lead up to the actual boiling of the water, followed by the short pour into the teacup. With my uplifted mood and preparations both checked off for the morning, I’m ready to begin in earnest, a walk with Jack.

The earliest sounds of our excursion are my two attempts at capturing the natural stillness surrounding us. For so long, the only harsh sounds of my atmosphere are my heavy footfalls, but when they stop, a total silence encompasses my auditory world. But then, as I stop to record and take a sip or water, the faint murmur of snowmobiles approaches, and quickly grows to a harsh berating mechanical sound. Again my mind turns to Horowitz, Chion, Schafer, and maybe even Bijsterveld, as I contemplate the type of sounds, causal and reduced, their historical and cultural ramifications, and their current source: technology. This juxtaposition of silence with manmade interruption is interesting, but not alone. The very next recording captures another brief technological intrusion, the car driving by, followed by the crisp beat of my footsteps. Only between them, there is another notable exclamation of sound. My quite estranged voice, to mine own ears, cuts through the crunching snow to signal my ingrained need for lingual communication.

The walk continues a, little more organically, with Jack’s sniffing layered above the quiet birdcalls subtly crisscrossing around the immediate area. It’s an ineffable moment of natural peace and I’m grateful to have captured it. A while after, we finally reach the main road, and are immediately bombarded by the roar of commonplace automobile. Silence recaptures its hold briefly, only to have it shattered by a cluster of cars roaring by. Now Jack and I are resigned to a period of repeated and equally jarring mechanical interruptions. We amble rather soundlessly, more for the reason that the ears are forced to be ever wary of incoming cars, and unable to catch the nuances of the breezes and river nearby. A pity the Mad River couldn’t make an appearance, but maybe another day. The monotonous necessity of the causal listening reminded me of Karin Bijsterveld and her inquiries within Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound. Specifically, she discusses the necessity of hearing within industrial settings, but it seems to me that even two-lane Route 100 has become a hub of technologically caused noise. Everywhere, not just in the factories, are the harsh interruptions of human mechanical culture.

Luckily only about fifteen minutes go by and we find a side road, laden with quaint residences, that parallels the highway, but with a major reduction in auto-noise. This recording captures the crescendo clacking of Jack’s claws upon the gravelly and deteriorated pavement. What most interests me is the dynamic of Jack’s approach. How it goes from quiet, to a climactic and powerful sound, and suddenly dies when he reaches me, and his other goal, an ear-scratch. I found this little snippet to interest me more musically than many of the others. As a beat boxer, I am always subconsciously on the lookout for interesting sounds or effects to replicate. How I somehow managed to get my recorder going just before he trotted contentedly over to me I will never know, but will forever be thankful for. I imagine it might also interest Chion in terms of sound type and resultant effects.

To finally wrap-up this day of some mixture of companionship with Jack, nostalgia with my mom, my regular routines, serene nature, and invasive industry, a cascade of noise and refreshment washes away the trance of the auditory adventure. The shower’s surround-sound effect, coupled with the physical effects of the cleansing water sweep away the soundscape of the day. As soon as the curtain pulls closed, the sound sphere of my perception shrinks and returns to dorm-life mode. I am readying myself for the nearly constant murmur of human interaction, whether it be music, conversation, or movement. I reflect on my day and realize suddenly what a wonderful day with my dog that was. And then I decided to write about it.


Works Cited

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 25-39. Print.

Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound.” The Sound Studies Reader (2012): 152-64. Text.

 Twiddle. “When it Rains it Poors. Somewhere on the Mountain. 2011. CD.


Below is a sequence of my 12 recordings, played as read. Another can be found by following this Soundcloud link and starting at the bottom, and working your way up.

Driving Home on dirt road Driving Home Two Pulling i Driveway Planet Earth Watching twiddle 30 second morning Getting Dressed in the morning Pouring Tea Water Silence Penetrated by Snowmobiles Car followed by walking Sniffy Puppy Getting to edge of the road Jack Walks to Me taking a shower, Sugar loops at beginning?

Willfully Deaf

We are enveloped in a world of sound; a fact that I take for granted. Sound seems so natural to the daily course of life that I find myself ignoring many of the rich sounds throughout my day. This audiography assignment has given me a chance to closely consider and examine the sounds that make up my day and how I perceive them. Dr. Seth Horowitz writes, “Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload” (Horowitz). I fear that I have succumb to the “digital distraction” that I choose to surround myself with. I divided my ten sound clips into three themes: “Around UHeights,” “Meal Time,” and “Out and About.” By looking how I perceive this collection of sounds, I hope to gain an understanding of how I listen or fail to listen.

The “Around UHeights” set is composed of the sounds that I encounter throughout my day in the dorm. From the hiss of the shower, to the clanging of hangars, to the tones of my computer waking up, to click-clacking of my keyboard, and my lively reaction to a sports game; my dorm life is filled with many sounds most of which I hear, but fail to truly listen to. The second set, “Meal Time,” chronicles the sounds from my lunch time at Cook. From the crinkling wrapper of a Rice Krispy Treat, to the hissing of the soda fountain, to the clanging of plates; again, these sounds are very rich, but I take them for granted. The last set, “Out and About,” is a collection of the sounds of my movement throughout campus and downtown. From the stomping of my boots up the stairs, to the zipping of my jacket, to the whip of the wind, and the hissing of the lowering bus; only when I have sat down to inspect these sounds do I appreciate their qualities.

“Willfully Deaf” is an apt title because I am engulfed in this rich, varied soundscape, but do not truly listen nor appreciate the distinct qualities of the sound. I find that throughout my day, I mostly utilize causal listening which “consists of listening to a sound in order to gather information about its cause (or source),” or semantic listening which is the listening that which “refers to a code or a language to interpret a message” (Chion 48,50). I utilize causal listening when it comes to my electronics or clothing. It allows me to multitask as I can gain an understanding of my progress of a certain task, be it the operation of my TV or the zippering of my coat, without needing to give it my full attention. Semantic listening comes into play with my interactions with others whether it is in class or at lunch or in the dorm.

The one mode of listening that I find nearly non-existent in my life is reduced listening, “the listening mode that focuses on the traits of the sound itself, independent of its cause and of its meaning” (Chion 50). After recording and examining the sounds of my audiography, I was shocked by how many interesting sounds I never recognize. One that stood out was the hissing of the bus from the clip, “New Comic Book Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday I go downtown on the 5:07 bus, stop by the comic book store for the new releases, and get right back on the next bus to University Heights. I am so focused on the mission at hand and distracted by my phone that I never stop to appreciate the sounds along the way. When I captured this selection of the bus, I was stunned by the clip. I was aware of the hydraulic action of the bus, but only through careful replaying of the clip did I truly experience the unique character of the sound.

Dr. Horowitz’s fear for our loss of listening is one that is very real, and as a society we need to examine how we listen and do not listen. What are the sounds that we choose to listen to and what are the sounds we ignore? There is a true richness in life that is lost when we fail to listen, one that I hope to learn to embrace in the future.

Works Cited

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 25-39. Print.

Super Bowl XLVII. CBS. CBS, New York, New York, 2 Feb. 2013. Television.

Background into Focus

I have never been someone who has had great skill in listening to multiple things at once. Because of this when I am focused on an activity I tend not to notice the things around me. The whole world is happening but because I am not paying attention to it, it is not actually happening to me. Every so often something in the things that I tune out begins to capture my attention. “Hearing has evolved as our alarm system — it operates out of line of sight and works even while you are asleep” (Horowitz 1). In my case, without my hearing working as an alarm system, I wouldn’t hear my alarm go off in the morning.

Having sound that capture my attention can work to my disadvantage also. At times when I attempt to study, the constant turning of a page can pull me away from what I should be doing. I become so focused on the one sound that every time I hear it, I have to pay attention to it. This also occurs as I am trying to fall asleep. It is much more interesting to listen to the conversations that occur in the hallway at midnight then it is to just fall asleep.

In some cases sounds that I hear become much easier to ignore once I discern their cause. My room borders a stairwell. Lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I would often hear a banging, echoing sound coming from the stairwell. The source of noise in the stairwell was a mystery to me for a while. It would occur randomly throughout the day but it was especially prevalent on weekend nights.  I was force to rely on causal listening “to gather information about its cause” and came to the conclusion that it was the result of people banging on the railings as they climbed the stairs (Chion 48).

Sometimes I was unable to pick out the specific cause of my distraction. In the Harris-Millis Dining Hall the sounds were not individual. All the different sounds had combined to create a whole new sound. Because I could not pick up the individual sounds I had to focus on the sound itself. By using reduced listening I was able to pick up the “timbre and texture” of the dining hall (Chion 51).

This assignment has been particularly successful at bring my focus to the things that I traditionally ignore. Even at this moment the clack of the keys on my computer keyboard have caught my attention. As I type I normally tune out the fact that each key has a sound that varies slightly differently from the others. Something that I do so often is so easily ignored. Previously, when I filled my water bottle at the fountain I was fascinated with the way the water would land in the bottle and then fill it. This assignment made me listen to the change in the sound that the water made as the bottle went from empty to full.

When I ride the bus, initially I am able to hear all the people talking along with being able to hear the rumble of the bus engine. As I spend more time on the bus, everyone’s voices seem to gradually fade out and blend with the engine unless I specifically focus on one particular conversation. However the longer that I am on it, the less I notice the engine. In this way my ears close without me even being aware of it happening.

At times I close my ears to things I should not. If a lecture does not capture my attention I end up getting distracted. In these cases I am not “open to new ideas” because they do not hold my interest (Schafer 25). Doing this assignment has made me realize just how much I close my ears to the world around me. If I miss this much in the course of a week, how much do I loose in a lifetime?

List of Sounds

Works Cited

Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: 1-3. Print.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. 25-39. Print.

A Day in the Life of Music

Living in a world constantly bombarded by visual stimuli begins to numb ones ability to hear. Our lives have become so focused on what things look like and how we visually perceive objects that we have forgotten how to truly listen to the atmosphere around us. Horowitz states “We tend to think of the world as a place we see, interacting with things and people based on how they look,” supporting the claim that by neglecting the audible world that is constantly surrounding us, we miss out on pivotal points in our lives. College students (myself included) are under constant pressures and are forced adapt to this ever-increasingly visual based society. However, it’s when we are able to slow down and actively listen that we can completely alter our perspectives of our day-to-day lives.

A typical day in the life of a college student would seem fairly simple. Keep your head down to read the new Facebook notifications that pop up into your slightly cracked iPhone, walk from class to class listening to the monotonous conversations between other students, sit down for dinner with your friends and talk about how you all cannot wait until the weekend. This has become our routine. The constant chatter of campus life, the cutting wind, the sounds of generators and fans in classrooms, have all become part of our mosaic soundscape. It would seem that nowadays the average student is more likely to spend his/her time in silence, than sharing experiences with their friends. Who’s to blame? What is the thief that has been crippling our abilities to foster new friendships and create memorable moments with groups of friends? It is because we have become accustomed listeners. We are so used to hearing the same music, sounds, and tones, that we lose interest in finding anything new. However, if you add new sounds to a daily routine you can drastically change your outlook on your “typical day,” just as Horowitz stated saying “The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention [1].”

My collection of sounds is a testament to what adding and sharing new audible experiences can do for a daily routine. Even starting the day off with a slight change in the normal tones you hear can give you a colorful perspective on your daily activities. My first and second clips are connected. Normally the shower only exposes me to the sounds of the water coming out of the showerhead and the constant light drumming of the droplets hitting the floor. Adding music helped me to pay greater attention and think more about the keynote sounds I would normally overlook on a daily basis. This allowed me to pick up on the leaky faucet and create a unique sound using what would be simple background noise. Yet another example of how “listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the nonvisual parts of our world feeds into everything [1].”

Music and sound serves not only as a portal to emotions and feelings that one could deem inconceivable, but also as a catalyst in social interactions.  The rest of the sounds are not what a typical day in a college student’s life sound like normally. They are, however, possibilities of what it could become through the addition of different sounds and music. All of the clips such as walking to the concert at Radiobean, the concert itself, and clips of friends making their own music for fun bring a powerful message. All of the people heard in the crowd are there to listen to music together. Not only is the collective experiencing the same sound, but also everyone has his or her own interpretations and individual thoughts. It’s this colossus of ideas and different interpretations that ultimately brings people together and that can change ones “typical” into something much more meaningful – especially in a setting such as the one presented in my audiography. When one is immersed so fully by sounds (i.e. the roar of the crowd, voices of the performers) two things occur: the overpowering awareness of the presence of resonance, and the need to use all three types of listening. In a crowd you are constantly hearing the buzz of conversation mixed with the music and the softer keynote sounds, which “entails adjacency, sympathy, and the collapse of the boundary between perceiver and perceived” – the embodiment of resonance [2]. You are also forced to listen to the music and tones on a variety of levels including “a specific person’s voice, the sound produced by a particular unique object,” the “code of a language to interpret a message,” and “the listening mode that focuses on the traits of the sound itself [3].”

The use of all three modes of listening as well as the aural resonance that is constantly heard is what brings people together. It is not the phone screens, or the numerous text messages to set up plans, but the ability to share in this moment of hearing music and truly listening to it that brings people together and can ultimately change the outlook of one’s typical day at college. The average sounds one would hear during a typical day at school would be much different than these, however, with the addition of different sounds and new music, a typical day could be easily altered to change one’s entire outlook on college.



[1] Seth Horowitz, The Science and Art of Listening (New York: The New York Times, 2012)

[2] Veit Erlmann, Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality (New York: Zone Books, 2010)

[3] Michel Chion, “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Comp. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012

The Comfort of Monotony

To be comfortable, I believe people need some consistency in their daily routines. Especially after being thrown, mentally unprepared, into this completely new and unfamiliar university world, I searched for a pattern to establish within my everyday activities. However, this comforting monotony also has the tendency to numb the senses. I especially notice how little I listen to during my daily routine. I no longer notice the buzzing of cars as I wait at the Main Street crosswalk, which I used to enjoy when I first came to school, as it was new to me. This type of aural ignorance comes with time and being accustomed to the environment and the sounds it contains.

In my audiography Monotony, listeners get a sense of what sounds make up my now regular college routine. It opens with a short recording of the alarm sound I wake up to each morning for class, which is the tone entitled “Marimba” on the iPhone. This sound is a perfect example of when I would incorporate causal listening into my day. My roommate and I have the same alarm tone, so I always let the alarm go off for about three run-throughs to ensure that it is my alarm going off and not hers. I then realize my phone is the source of the incessant, vexing tune. Following my alarm is the sound of window shades being pulled open, and immediately after is the whistling of wind through the barely existent cracks in the windowpane. Once awakened by my alarm, I pull open the shades to give myself a view of outside, where I will soon venture, to motivate me. The wind whispering through the windows allows me to focus on the outdoors and use semantic listening to “interpret a message” of the wind as a “code or a language” [1] of the world outside my room inviting me to venture there. Then, in the next recording, my roommate coughs several times, which I often hear as I get up in the morning lately due to her sickness. This sound grounds me back to where I am, and reminds me that I still have some preparing to do before taking part in the outdoor pursuit that begins my sure-to-be busy day.

The next sound is my door slamming shut, representing me leaving my room and beginning my daily duties, followed by the grinding, mechanical drone of my laptop starting up as I open it. These two sounds incorporate semantic listening as well, as they both involve a message of starting something. The shutting of the door represents leaving behind one event and starting another, and the laptop, obviously, illustrates gearing up and getting ready for some research or writing.

Typing of keys on my laptop is the next sound on the playlist, which is meant to stand for my times in class during the five school days every week. I believe I use semantic listening again when hearing typing, as I interpret it as a representation of work and academic efforts since I type homework assignments and notes.

The last three sounds of the playlist represent the gradual closing of each day. Scrunching of snow under boots is next, which is representative of my finishing class and walking back to the dorms to unwind a bit before burying myself under readings and notes for the unfortunate hours of homework I will surely have that night. Although I listen to music as I walk, I often hear this sound in the silence between songs on my iPod, and it is one of my personal favorites. Semantic listening tells me that it is winter in Vermont, which is beautiful and spirited.

The running water of a shower follows, representing relaxation and cleansing of the stresses of class before returning to work. Next is a short clip of one of my favorite study songs, the third movement of Scenes from the Louvre, a classical piece by Norman Dello Joio. I often listen to classical music as I work because songs with words tend to distract me. For this music, I use reduced listening, because I hear it for what it is, and do not infer anything from it.

I arranged my playlist in chronological order because I believe that gives listeners more insight into my routine, as the point of a routine is that the events are normally done in a particular order. They experience the sounds in the order I do. Making this playlist, I realized how many sounds blend together into the soundscape background that makes up everyday life. Searching for these sounds to record caused them to be “perceived consciously rather than just being part of [my] auditory surroundings” [2]. However, the fact that these sounds can blend together into the background proves that I have established my niche here at UVM and gives me a sense of comfort and belonging in my environment.


[1] Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” Trans. Array The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

[2] Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times. n. page. Print.

Relaxation and Sound

The college years are the most enjoyable years for many people. However, with the academic pressures that come with college, they can also be the most stressful. Hearing about taxing college classes from my friends, I decided going coming into UVM that I would emphasize relaxation in my life. I have discovered that sound has a profound impact on how I am able to relax in any given situation.

One way I am able to relax is by engaging in activities that directly involve creating sound. For example, my boyfriend and I were in the musical “Pippin” together in high school. Sometimes we just break out into a song from the show. I find that relaxing because singing is a way for us to let loose. When I sing with my boyfriend, I am engaging in semantic listening. “I call semantic listening that which refers to a code or language to interpret a message” (Chion 50). This is necessary in order for us to stay together in the song.  Another time I make noise to have fun is at UPlayers, the UVM theater club. Sometimes we do improvisation exercises that emphasize the role of sound. This requires causal listening because I have to know who is making the noise, but there’s no specific word meaning involved. Causal listening is listening with the purpose of identifying the source of a sound (Chion 48). My dance class is another time when listening is important. I am able to relax in dance class because it gives me the opportunity to achieve expressive freedom. Sometimes we listen to music without words when we are coming up with a composition. When this happens, I am engaging in reduced listening. This refers to listening just for the purpose of analyzing the sound, not the cause or the specific meaning (Chion 50). This is the best type of listening in this situation because it allows me to connect with the music on a deeper level.

Sometimes, when I am a contributor to a group noise being created, I can hear the sound, but I don’t really listen. An example of this is when I’m at the Marché. There are a lot of people talking, including myself and my friends, as well as the sound of eating, walking, and usually some music in the background. However, until I recorded this event, I didn’t realize that all these sounds were being made. I noticed that I associate these sounds with relaxation. This is useful information because now I can actively seek out that crowd noise to calm down. “Luckily, we can train our listening just as with any other skill” (Horowitz 2). My goal is to train my ears to recognize crowd noise on a more conscious level. Spending time with my friends over the summer is another time I get to wind down. When we go downtown, we always talk at the same time. I want to train my listening to appreciate what everyone is saying.

I also use sounds for relaxation when I am less involved in making the sound, and more of an observer. This often happens when my boyfriend tells me about a video game he likes. I listen semantically, not really having much to add. This gives me a nice break from having to think of things to say. Paying attention in these situations is important to my relationship. “Listen to your significant other’s voice…the emotions carried in the harmonics. You may save yourself a couple of fights” (Horowitz 2). I am also able to relax when I’m listening to music, like my favorite song “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson, or to the opening music of my favorite TV show, “Numbers”.  In these situations I engage in reduced listening to relax, so that I can sit back and appreciate what I hear. I also observed that when I’m brushing my teeth and showering, I engage in causal listening to relax. The familiarity of the water running on my hair and the brush scrubbing my teeth is very comforting. Overall, making sure I listen is a helpful tool in relaxation. Using semantic, causal, or reduced listening can be most effective depending on the situation.

Sounds Referenced:

Works Cited

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Comp. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Chisholm, Kenneth. “Counterfeit Reality.” Numbers. CBS. 11 Mar. 2005. Television.

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Michaelson, Ingrid. “Be OK” YouTube. YouTube, 04 Sept. 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.