Response 2: Joshua Mailman, Metaphors

Chion’s division of semantic, causal and reduced listening seems really limiting after reading the article written by Mailman. I was quite amazed by how diverse metaphors can contribute towards our understanding of the act of listening. I was initially a bit skeptical when Mailman was describing metaphors as “the cognitive mechanism by which all abstract thought arises from physical experience”. I used to think of metaphors as new ways of clarifying something that we already know, not as being capable of creating knowledge. However, every single metaphor unraveled a new definition of listening and a new way of listening. The three that stuck out the most to me where improvisation, adaptation and digestion.

I think the thing I like the most about them is the high degree of input from the listener. Everybody has a different focus, level of attention, and way of digesting and remembering sound. The reading absolutely debunks the idea that listening is a passive act. However, disseminating and describing the active role of a listener is no easy task. I like Mailman’s differentiation between listening-in-search and listening-in-readiness. The more we listen the more we grow expectations about how things should sound like. I think it would be great for our class to embrace the idea that it is possible for our ears to remain unconditioned and flexible, willing to wait for nuanced sounds. However, is it possible that the waiting for these unheard sounds is just another form of search? I guess different metaphors should be applied depending on the desired outcome of the experience (retaining knowledge, having a conversation, an pleasant aesthetic moment, or an in-depth exploration of sound).

Interpreting listening as computing and recording seems to be little bit more limiting in that they are reducing sound to whatever gets processed and written. However, it is true they can be thought as a ground baseline that enable and support adaptation and improvisation. The other two metaphors (transportation and meditation) give a sense of direction to the process of digestion.

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