The Isolated Listener
This project represents the accumulation of sound research and production work I was engaged in during my time at George Mason University going through the BIS (Bachelor of Individualized Study) program. For it I received the award of Best Creative BIS Project in my graduating class.
The purpose of the project was to investigate how musicians and radio broadcasters individually perceived their listening audiences, in terms of how and where they are listening, and further, find out if they cater to isolated listeners, in order to help musicians and radio broadcasters maximize the effectiveness of the music’s expression, and potentially its connection to their listeners. I conducted and recorded interviews of five musicians and three radio broadcasters on the topic and used their responses to form a radio documentary. The final piece was broadcasted on WGMU, George Mason University’s student-run radio station. Using the research I collected about audiences’ perception and reception of musical expression as a guide for my interview questions, I attempted to find out how the perceptions held by musicians and radio broadcasters were comparable, and how much of these perceptions, if any at all, were considered in their practices.
From these interviews, I found that the musicians had strong connections to physical spaces and their music, many of which are very personal spaces, like in their private studios or practice spaces, as well as in their vehicles, or even their bedrooms. Unlike the radio broadcasters, some of the musicians were reluctant to say if they considered potential listeners while they produced their work. They did, however, imagine listeners post-production listening to their music in similar locations with similar technological setups to those of their own - like being at home on a computer streaming music through the internet. In this scenario, online communications technology has presented to the listener a place to listen to music that is generally more of a stationary and private space, rather than one where they are on-the-go out in public. However, in this same scenario, any musician or radio broadcaster hoping to grab and hold the attention of potential listeners has to compete with what the listeners have at their fingertips - information about virtually anything they might want to occupy their minds and time with.
Different music listening technology and the physical locations that accompany them are used for different reasons by different people – sometimes by virtue of convenience, sometimes to create a sense of privacy, and sometimes, just for background noise. Musicians and radio broadcasters want to be heard, so second place isn’t so bad, right?