Tuning the Ear (2019)

Artistic based PhD dissertation written in fulfilment of the doctoral degree programme conducted at
Audio Design, the Graduate School of the Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University.

The research project Tuning the Ear proposes a new attention towards the term hearing by exploring  technologies which historically have been used to diagnose, normalize and even optimize the ear. By attending to both the discursive and historical frames and the operative means of selected audiological instruments, amongst others audiometers (hearing tests machines), hearing horns and sound therapy instruments, it exposes how technology tunes the ear, that is how technology lets us hear and how technology frames conceptions of hearing.

The research project departs from the construction of three sound works that stage an obsolete audiometer, a row of imaginary sound therapy instruments and a set of reconstructed hearing horns within an aesthetic setting. These sound works propose an alternative methodology for reaching conceptualizations of hearing, where the act of doing, of entering into a practical dialogue with a specific material, forms a way of thinking. As this approach has strong ties to the phenomenological research methodology of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, but also to contemporary research methodologies such as media archaeology and object-oriented ontology, the research project evolves as a tuning between manifold methodologies and theoretical positions, which creates different entrances for exploring the history of hearing. This kaleidoscopic perspective on the audiological instruments enables a presentation of hearing beyond the passive position it has partaken within especially the field of sound studies and the field of audiology, and it proposes hearing as a varied, malleable and indeed complex perceptual auditory state.

The dissertation takes the form of a methodological experiment which employs academic writing, sound works, objects and hearing tasks.

The full dissertation can be accessed here: Tuning the Ear (copyright Sandra Boss)

The three art works which have been developed as part of this PhD project are:

The Acoustic Appraiser – music for an obsolete audiometer

Maskinel Terapi – performance/installation for imaginary sound therapy instruments (made in collaboration with Jonas Olesen)

Shouting Out Loud! – piece for reconstructed hearing horns (made in collaboration with Ina Hjort Jacobsen and Katrine Würtz)