Creating Soundscapes: A Creative, Technological and Theoretical Investigation of Binaural Technology Usage
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Through its portfolio of practical case studies and its engagement with critical thinking from a range of disciplines, the PhD investigates the following key question: what are the technical, aesthetic and conceptual impacts of using binaural technology to create a soundscape? ‘Using binaural technology’ implies users and users are essentially at the heart of this impact because users mediate the technical and aesthetic aspects of binaural technology and also inherently shape the theoretical ideology of this technology. By analysing users’ interactions with binaural technology from a social constructivist perspective, this thesis gains rich insights into the impact of using binaural technology when creating soundscapes. Chapter One explores sound artists’ and field recordists’ work that use binaural technology for the shared purpose of documenting urban soundwalks. The first case study “Audio Postcards” is also informed by questions drawn from acoustic ecology, socio-political theories on the practices of everyday life and the challenges that arise in finding, recording and preserving ‘soundmarks’. Chapter Two outlines practitioners’ applications of binaural technology to create an intimate connection to an art piece such as theatre director David Rosenberg’s productions. Peter Salvatore Petralia’s concept of headspace is applied to the chapter’s case study: “From Austria To America” to further understand binaural technology’s psychoacoustic effects. Chapter Three studies the impact of social groups who use binaural technology to record classical music performances. Traditional stereo and binaural classical music recording conventions are shaped in a new direction in two case studies: “Point of Audition” and “From Page to Stage”. Questions of ‘fidelity’ also arise from this creative practice. The outcomes of this reflective binaural practice unearth deep layers of understanding. This thesis discovers the impact of binaural technology moves beyond the effect it has on a listener to realise this recording practice also impacts a recordist’s decisions in the field and a sound artist’s creative choices when crafting soundscapes. The beneficial impact of binaural technology including its inconspicuous nature, the ability to imprint an artist’s subjective signature on recordings and its lifelike immersive qualities in playback are revealed through practice and reflection. Representing the real, the role of artist and point of audition are also themes explored throughout each chapter. Ultimately, insights gained are woven together as a means of constructing an original theoretical framework for an under-theorised subject: understanding how social user groups shape the impact of using binaural technology when creating soundscapes.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in Film