Paracusis Loci to Otoloci– Spatial Perception in Auraldiversity

Drever, John L.. 2023. 'Paracusis Loci to Otoloci– Spatial Perception in Auraldiversity'. In: Aural Diversity Network: Workshop 5 Music & Performance. University of Leicester, United Kingdom 21 - 22 January 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This talk will explore spatial perception through an aurallydiverse (Drever 2015, Drever & Hugill 2022) frame, the implications for design when hearing diverges from the normative / auraltypical spatial blueprint and creative strategies that represent or address aurally divergent spatial perception. The starting point for this paper is that the standard practice in acoustic design, acoustic architecture (Blesser & Salter 2007) and audio engineering is predicated on an otologically normal, symmetrical auditory space experienced as a continuum – space being that “totality of all possible positions of auditory events” (Blauert). For example, it is fundamentally inscribed into our audio formats and technology; the stereo image is predicated on the notion of the sweet spot that demands a pair of identically functioning (binaural) ears. In Poitzer foundational text on otology, Lehrbuch der Ohrenheilkunde (1878-82), he introduces the concept of paracusis loci, auditory spatial impairment. He focuses on the localisation of sound, “the inability to point out the locality and the direction from which sound has come”, but we could include a much wider range of spatial impressions (Mason 1999) such as the dimensions of sources and the distance from the listener, and the dimension and features of the environment that the sources and listener are situated. This includes the promise from VR of envelopment or immersion. The keystone pedagogic text on concert hall acoustic design of Barron (2010) and Beranek (1996) places the listener at the centre of the concert hall experience and has developed highly nuanced criteria regarding direct and reflected sound and resonance of the space in relation to the position of the listener, however throughout, the listener is assumed, as in the words of modernist composer Babbitt “a suitably equipped receptor” (Babbitt 1958). But if we look deeper, we can find a growing understanding of paracusis loci. This talk will explore the characterisation of different forms such as occlusion (with the amplification of internal sounds) and periscopic listening (Ronnell) such as the sonic experience of breaststroke, with one ear submerged. We will also explore expanded spatial perception. In conclusion, it will begin to offer a more lived understanding of spatial perception and the consequences for the way in which we relate to the built environment.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


auraldiversity, spatial perception

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Unit for Sound Practice Research


22 January 2023Completed

Event Location:

University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Date range:

21 - 22 January 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Jan 2023 10:19

Last Modified:

23 Jan 2023 10:19


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