"MEDIA DETERMINE OUR SITUATION"
We are now ACUTELY CONFRONTED with the impact of digital technology on our existence. Our senses are continually stroked, seduced, and shocked by mediated visual and aural experiences emanating from the new territories of computation. Simultaneously, physical reality and communication are disappearing into the discrete, informatic space of networks, reducing physical embodiment to an infinite realm of calculations.
The FOCUS OF THIS PROJECT IS SOUND and its transformation by digital technologies. Sound is confounding and contradictory: profoundly physical but invisible; immaterial yet still capable of shattering substances and rattling structures. While vision is often thought to be concrete, the aural world is relegated to the domain of the abstract. Yet, how abstract can something be that enthralls and surrounds us, that has a profoundly tangible and tactile impact even while it is visually imperceivable? Sound eludes description by ordinary language and instead has to be directly experienced in the body. It is something that is "beyond imagination, central to a sphere without surface, its becoming is unimpeded, energetically broadcast"(John Cage).
The HISTORY OF SONIC INVENTION is no less than a history of the entanglement of technology and perception. The key technological movements of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have changed the ways we think about soundreproduction, digitization, and now networksrepresent not only evolutionary changes in the media but also in the ways we hear and listen to the world. Listening and hearing, however, are not the same. While hearing involves the ear and its physiological-perceptual capacity to distinguish sound as, among other things, a measure of signal frequencies and amplitude intensities, listening relates to our phenomenal experienceour interpretation of the lived aural world. Listening, in the phenomenological sense, "intends" and makes the world for us.
Developments in the PRODUCTION AND TRANSMISSION OF AUDITORY EXPERIENCES have played a pivotal role in the history of human communications. What far-reaching impacts could current and future technological innovations in the domain of sound have on our ability to listen to the world? Is the act of listening being profoundly changed by the continued and pronounced intertwining of engineering and aesthetics; by the mathematics and computation that have trickled down from the research labs and academic walls into our everyday experience? Is a new form of listening emerging, in the ear and in the computer? Does digitization in a "networked" listening age promise to be a change without precedent in human hearing history? Or, is network music, sound, and listening the emperors new set of technological clothes?
These are the CRITICAL QUESTIONS OF THE MOMENT OF THE MICROPROCESSOR, for as computation becomes ubiquitous in everyday life we need to ask whether digitization and networks will provide us with an unprecedented, new acoustic space of possibilities beyond the realm of the audible imagination, or will they instead produce disembodied, discretized silence?