‘Primacy of the Ear’ – But Whose Ear?: the case for auraldiversity in sonic arts practice and discourse

Drever, John L.. 2019. ‘Primacy of the Ear’ – But Whose Ear?: the case for auraldiversity in sonic arts practice and discourse. Organised Sound, 24(1), pp. 85-95. ISSN 1355-7718 [Article]

Drever Primacy of the Ear draft.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (310kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

60 years on from Pierre Schaeffer’s call for ‘primacy of the ear’ [‘primauté de l’oreille’] (Schaeffer 1957) and Denis Smalley’s reassertion of ‘the primacy of aural perception’ (Smalley 1986) in music theory and composition, this paper asks an ostensibly simple question: whose ear / aural perception is being referred to when we talk of and compose under this guiding principle? Is there a tacit preselected audiometric norm or even a pair of golden ears, at its core? The paper will problematise the uncompromising modernist notion espoused by Babbitt of a ‘suitably equipped receptor’ (Babbitt 1958), and posit examples of well-known composers whose hearing markedly diverged from the otologically normal, an acoustics standard from which A-weighted decibels is predicated (ISO 226:2003). In conclusion the concept of auraldiverse hearing is proposed and creative strategies that eschew or problematise auraltypical archetypes in sonic arts practice and theory wherever they may lie are encouraged.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



auraldiversity, auraltypical, auditory perception, sonic art, musique concrète

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Unit for Sound Practice Research


April 2019Published
30 May 2019Published Online
1 April 2019Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Nov 2018 12:18

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 16:24

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)