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Musicians Auditory Perception Project

Shahrokh Yadegari (University of California, San Diego) [PI] with ACTOR student members Jeanne Côté (McGill University), Pedram Diba (McGill University), Min Seok Peter Ko (UCSD), Sang Song (UCSD), Berk Schneider (UCSD), and Tiange Zhou (UCSD) plus external collaborator Florian Grond (McGill University).

The purpose of the Musician Auditory Perception (MAP) project is to collect quantitative data via sonic ethnography in order to promote and analyze, both literally and metaphorically, (a) sonic collaboration between auditory learners, (b) modes of sound information gathering, and (c) the creative expression of musicians, while disrupting common pedagogic practices that reinforce hierarchical education. Auditory learning is not necessarily a linear process, but a dynamic one — a skillset synergistic and deeply connected with creation. Therefore, MAP will enable three student composer-performer duos from two Analysis, Creation, and Teaching of Orchestration (ACTOR) partner institutions, UC San Diego (UCSD) and McGill University (McGill), to document their creation processes with binaural recording devices and first-person vision — captured by earpiece microphones and wearable HD cameras — effectively mapping audiovisual boundary objects. The outcome being that these sonic and visual boundary objects promote skill sharing between all participants by bridging differences in perception during the creation and reproduction of musical timbres, allowing a digital transfer of knowledge via an individual perspective in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Through analyzation of boundary objects, MAP’s interdisciplinary-participatory research design seeks to understand how musicians balance cognitive and technical dimensions within their practice in order to produce timbres that cannot necessarily be measured in totality, especially when it comes to unearthing tacit knowledge, where typical interviews and text-based case studies are only partially successful. How does ACTOR’s developing ontological classification of timbre, including its descriptors, interact with tacit knowledge and the epistemic authority of each participating musician, e.g., gut feeling with know-how, creativity with problem-solving, intuition with skills, and perceptions or judgements with lessons learned? In addition, a cross-referencing of thematic analysis through quantitative thick descriptions and signal processing of binaural audio will provide more objective constructs for evaluation. For example, If a sound is deemed “bright” by the majority of participants the term will be measured in conjunction with its spectral centroid.

MAP’s research methods focus on data mining of spatial sound-field recordings — reflecting the acoustics of the space in which a musical work is conceived, rehearsed, and performed. These recordings will be conducted remotely between October 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021. During this period, each composer-performer duo will be responsible for the creation of a single three-minute unaccompanied solo work with the goal of exploring extended timbral performance techniques on the violin, cello, or trombone. MAP will culminate in late January with a webcast featuring the performances of all three compositions, followed by a presentation of early research findings and a Q&A session with each participant. The research findings will be assembled into a joint publication by March 31, 2021.