Hearing, Cognition, Memory - The Act and Artifacts of Sound Perception


The experience and artifacts of sound perception would not be complete without a thorough exploration of the physiology and psychology of hearing, listening and meaning. In this chapter the landscape of auditory cognition is detailed from the reception of acoustical energy by the body to the mapping of our experience into our conscious and subconscious mind. The realms of sound, hearing, language and expression of humans, dolphins, birds, insects and other creatures are included in this expansive overview of the functions of sound perception:


Hearing:

"So how sensitive is the human ear? Very; the ear can perceive movements in the eardrum 100 times smaller than the diameter of a hydrogen molecule. The dynamic range of the ear - from the threshold of perception to the threshold of pain represents a ratio of about 30 million to one. Visually this roughly equates to our simultaneously being able to see an amoebae in a football stadium - or to see the length of your middle finger and the length of the state of California."


Listening:

"...It seems that when people read information, they have a greater tendency to read what they already know, whereas when their imagination is captured by the sound of a voice, the seeds of meaning get planted in the subconscious, allowing it to grow in it's own time..."


Understanding:

"...One of the many behaviors promoted by interaction with infants is the adult habit of speaking "baby talk" - the slow and deliberate, and often musical articulation of language. Babies love this and show their pleasure. In turn, adults get more articulate, musical and repetitive. Linguists call this speaking style "mother-ese." The theory is that talking this way enables the infant to grasp the basic elements of the language they are trying to learn - and that the more mother-ese they hear, the more rapidly and comprehensively they come to understand the language. The thought that this occurs subconsciously, or instinctually is a bit uncanny to a linear adult mind, but anyone who has parented an infant or spent any time around them knows that they have fairly advanced lines of communication well before their mastery of a set vocabulary. A baby will loll around in an infant haze until another child his own age appears on the scene; all of a sudden inquiry begins, eyes open, hands move, expressions flex and two beings start jammin' with each other..."


Mapping:

"...There are some migratory birds who can hear ultra-low frequency sounds. This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that unlike elephants or whales - who use these sounds to communicate over long distances, birds don't really produce these sounds; at least they don't produce them from within their bodies. There is some informed speculation that these birds use this ability to help them navigate; and that they have mapped the terrain of their migrations by knowing the sounds of the earth as it is played upon by the weather; how the winds play over mountain ridges like profound, expansive flutes and the waves play the shores in their deep rhythm, slowly modulating the pressures of the earth's atmosphere.

"Hearing perception in this realm would allow a flock of birds to determine the scope and breadth of an oncoming storm - days before it's arrival. It would allow them to know if a storm is a result of the seasonal instability of Autumn, or if it is the true onset of Winter..."