Listening Trumpets

  • Saturday, December 2, 2017

  • 2:00 PM  3:00 PM

  • Heathly Rivers Partnership (map)

Karen McCoy

Investigation : Sound 

Event :  WBR + KCDC 

Description : Listening Trumpets 

"There is a geographical quality to listening…Of all the senses, hearing most resembles a contraption some ingenious plumber has put together from spare parts. Its job is partly spatial…Sounds have to be located in space, identified by type, intensity, and other features."
–Dianne Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Imagining an experience, sculpting or composing it, in such a way that viewers must walk to discover it is, in itself, an act overlaid with many intentions. The use of Listening Trumpets on walks places emphasis on the contemplation of a place and its sounds. The trumpets focus and subtly (or at times not so subtly) amplify sound. They are extremely directional and bring the sound at which they are aimed closer to the listener while excluding other sounds in the environment. The effect is subtle, more like the resonance of a musical instrument than electronic amplification. By using the large or small circular aperture at either end to sight and frame an image the Listening Trumpets may also be used to isolate visual phenomena. In this way the play of moving light and shadow may become a miniature "film" or the brilliance of green mosses, the patterns of lichens spread on a boulder, may become miniature abstract pictures. The emphasis is on increasing sensory perception through concentrating, focusing and isolating particular sounds and sights.

In the future, perhaps noise pollution from technological devices, personal and otherwise, and from our ever-expanding cities will be so increased that sound quality might form the basis for retreats from the urban. The concept of the park as a quiet zone is not unthinkable. Walking with a small listening trumpet in hand creates a situation in which viewer/participants may take a sort of journey to discover that which is available all the time, to anyone, but seldom noticed. As each Listening Trumpet makes its way into a variety of soundscapes; or is used as a visual sighting instrument, it becomes part of a larger sculptural experience. The creation of this dispersed "situational sculpture" is intended to create a multi-layered experience for participants. Concentrating on small visual fragments of great beauty in the environment can alter our perception of place. Walking with a focus on sound, listening and close scrutiny of the immediate environment invites a slower pace and an attendant increase in sensory perception. We engage in a kind of heightened perception that may filter into our daily lives. Since the "situational sculpture" consists of a dispersed experience, it calls upon the viewer to remember and mentally assemble all the parts in order to experience the whole. Listening as part of a geographical experience creates a process of assembling sound into an aural picture of the landscape; likewise with viewing visual fragments. They contribute to a new and broader vision of the landscape. 

Of central concern in this work is the cultivation of simple awareness. Alongside this is a recognition of the human need to break from the oftentimes-mechanical rhythm of contemporary life. An intentional cultivation of our perceptual facilities allows frequent conscious retreats from the usual patterns of our fast-paced lives, and nurtures our ability to facilitate this. It’s amazing to think that the use of a simple, humble device might lead to increased sensitivity to the natural world. To walk is restorative. It encourages quietness, intimate communality with surroundings and with others. Our ability to find moments of beauty in the everyday may increase the sense of joy in our lives, and perhaps catalyze a greater interest in the health of our life- supporting planet.

Listening Trumpets provide a way of "cupping our ears to the earth".