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A Listening Experiment

What would a scientist who studies hearing have to say on the subject of listening? I took the opportunity to find out as part of my planning for World Listening Day, a public program happening in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden this July. On World Listening Day (WLD), listening for listening’s sake is celebrated across the […]

What would a scientist who studies hearing have to say on the subject of listening? I took the opportunity to find out as part of my planning for World Listening Day, a public program happening in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden this July.

On World Listening Day (WLD), listening for listening’s sake is celebrated across the globe. Here at the Walker, a public observance of WLD will explore the soundscape of the Sculpture Garden. Typically, the Garden’s horticulture, sculptures, wildlife, and of course people-watching are perceived visually. WLD is a chance to attend to a different sensory modality and become immersed in the wonders of aural experience. In planning the Walker’s WLD, I’ve probed listening from a variety of angles—music, science, history, memory, and mindfulness to name just a few. Given WLD’s emphasis on environmental sounds and soundscape ecology, I set out to connect with people who not only thought about sound in a human context, but also considered the sonic lives of other animals. Enter Dr. Mark Bee.

Or rather, I entered his office. My hope: to borrow some ideas from his Animal Communications Lab and apply them in the Garden. But how? Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that Dr. Bee and his colleague Dr. Norman Lee would approach this question with playful creativity, a willingness to experiment, and a sense of humor. I hope you’ll join us on Thursday, July 18 to hear the entire story. Dr. Bee and Dr. Lee will be in the Foraging Circle  with a playlist of listening experiments that get us thinking about the ear of the beholder. For a sound clip, click this image to view a short video:salmon listen to Beyonce

World Listening Day features a variety of activities, all designed to motivate discovery through listening. Be an earwitness to music as it’s coaxed from the invisible by musician and composer Philip Blackburn. Contemplate the connections between listening and mindfulness on a Garden soundwalk led by Mark Nunberg, guiding teacher at Common Ground Meditation Center. Or pick up The Soniferous Garden, a pamphlet offering a number of self-paced aural experiences written by artist Viv Corringham.