Listening in Live Situations

Being a musician in play, how do I listen? In Merleau-Ponty's terms, I plunge into an intentional object and let other aspects of the space rest, whereas the double horizons of time, retention and protention, defines the now and makes up for decision-making. Intentionally, I direct my attention toward certain qualities, an object that display itself, but I am still aware of the surrounding landscape, the horizon where it all takes place, which in fact defines the intentional object. In a performance situation there is not much time for structural sound analysis. Rather I listen and react instantly and instinctively with my body to the audible surrounding. I consciously oscillate between reduced listening and ordinary listening. I also shift my listening intention between my own playing, and let the surrounding be the horizon, while at other times I become the horizon as an accompanist and my listening intention is directed to some one else's playing. Sometimes inherent sonic features, at other times the semantics of perceived sonic output constitute the basis of the listening intention. In the case where a sonic metaphor is detected, like wind or water, most of the effort is spent on inherent sonic qualities, which is of most use if it seems important to maintain the metaphor. However, I can also listen consciously to certain qualities, notably rhythmic patterns that may catch my interest. First I try to analysis it, and then decide whether I should hook up with it or let it go. I believe that I compare the immediate aural image with my memorized personal library of sonic images. I may recognize a pattern, and based on previously learned behavior I do something meaningful with it. What first catches my interest is the character of perceived gestures and tessitura, with a focus on changes in density and pitch over time. Here Schaeffer's typology is of value. Whether a perceived gesture contains a pulse, is groove based or irregular is also important. I also notice harmonicity, whether a perceived sound is pitched or noisy. The following list is made with the aim of clarifying important dimensions of perceived sounds during improvisation. The order of the items does not necessarily correspond to analysis order; rather, analysis in real time deals with many qualities simultaneously. For example, one can analyze and define a sound as being simultaneously pitched, irregular in pulse, of mid density, and going from low to high pitch. Here follows a subjective list of listening criteria:

A number of concepts that derive from Schaeffer may be discerned. When practicing live- sampling an important aspect of the musique concrete practice comes to use, that is to arbitrarily chose and cut out a sonic object of suitable length from a sound stream, taking natural discontinuities into account according to Schaeffer's stress-articulation principle, and making the selection. I argue that during performances I analyze sounds according to the typology and morphology qualities as defined above. In other words, I practice musique concrete in real time. All this is done in accord with the Schaefferian terminology, if not explicitly and verbally articulated as such.

adrian 2015-06-03