As the world enters the new millennium with ever more uncertainties and changes, the research raises moral contemplation and debate on critical issues about sound, society and environment, by connecting the contemporary with the historical, the global with the local, the communal with the individual, the human with the nonhuman, and the noisy with the musical. The research opens for wide-ranging examination the questions of cultural and biological influences on humanity. It investigates how biological factors, socio-cultural forces and scientific views have shaped human perceptions, beliefs and practices, which in turn influence the production and consumption of sound and music. The investigation is aided by analyses of constructive and destructive socio-cultural resources; and supported by scientific studies on the effects of noise on individual humans, animals and their communities. The research also seeks to unfold the symbolic meanings engendered from the interactions and exploitations of human and natural worlds.
The abovementioned issues require a series of investigations into sound, society and environment. They necessitate a broadening of the scope of what noise and music are and can be, as well as a research approach that can furnish a comprehensive classification of methods, genres and activities that are multilateral and participatory, artistic and musical, or environmentally oriented and non-anthropocentric.
Some of these methods, genres and activities evolve novel ways of creating or interacting with sound-producing instruments or situations. Others provide opportunities, rituals, contexts, techniques or algorithms to incorporate animals, plants, bodily functions, natural phenomena, biofeedback, motion-sensing or extra-sensory perceptions. Many of them not only borrow elements from music, poetry and literature, but also incorporate components from the visual and performance arts, from architecture and landscape design, and from electronics, engineering, electro-acoustics and artificial intelligence. A number of methods, genres and activities specialize in the crossovers between creative arts and the fields of biology, microbiology, physiology, genetics, cognitive science and biomusicology. There are categories that appeal to people who seek musical connections forged in the ethical, spiritual, therapeutic and/or ecological domains.
The originality of this research lies in its furnishing diverse links across contemporary science, traditional wisdom, aural dimensions and musical platforms. It introduces a new model to resolve the vast spectrum of human-Nature relationships across the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives. Multidisciplinary in its composition, the research caters for both general and academic readers across the domains of art, science and philosophy that address both humanity and Nature. Parts of this research also reflect the rich organization in natural history and biodiversity, with a view to creating for the readers a fertile environment for topical discussion, artistic creation, philosophical interpretation, spiritual growth and cultural negotiation.
The following preliminary discussion offers a multidisciplinary model to deal with those issues via four perspectives:
A few efforts have been made to categorise these attitudes by some environmental philosophers, sociologists, green groups and so on. These are usually limited to textual categories and analyses. This discussion introduces a model that enables a visually oriented approach to categorising and comparing attitudes to Nature. It gains simplicity by operating at a high level of generality. Simplicity makes it flexible and adaptable. One of the benefits of visual approach is that it allows relationships to be more easily seen and mapped.
In this approach, conceptual ‘maps’ are devised from a composite approach named the ISEA model, a schematic tool assisting the description, classification and analysis of the ways in which people relate to and regard Nature, particularly in the contexts of environmental concerns and approaches to sound and music. As shown in the image above, the model identifies four generic orientations towards Nature, labelled the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives, hence the acronym ISEA. As will be succinctly elucidated later in this discussion, these broad perspectives engender their own sets of issues and implications in the acoustic, social, psychological and environmental domains.
Each of the perspectives in the ISEA model is defined by a set of three descriptive attributes. The four perspectives are also polarized into contrasting qualities along the horizontal axis (Instrumental↔Spiritual) and vertical axis (Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant). The degree of polarity is also visually conveyed by the colour gradients of the blue, red, green and yellow quadrants, whose symmetrical geometry outlines the boundaries of the perspectives. The resulting structural demarcation into the two axes and four coloured quadrants containing unique attributes provides a conceptual field for locating contrasting aspects of human-Nature relationships. In other words, the two bipolar and colour-coordinated dimensions aid the organization of contrasting attributes within the ISEA model such that broadly identifiable paradigms and standpoints can be reviewed both on their own and in relation to one another.
The perspectives polarized along both axes represent opposite ends of ideological or philosophical spectrums concerning human-Nature relationships. Briefly stated, the Instrumental↔Spiritual axis distinguishes the perspective that values the natural world in means-end rationales and anthropocentric terms (the Instrumental perspective) on the one hand; and the perspective that attaches importance to deep empathy and identification with Nature (the Spiritual perspective) on the other. The Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant axis distinguishes the perspective whose concerns about Nature take the form of an organismic or biocentric emphasis on the rights and welfare of nonhumans (the Pro-Animal/Plant Perspective) on the one hand; and the perspective whose concerns are informed by a more systemic or ecocentric understanding of an ecosphere/ecosystem and its internal interrelations (the Pro-Environment perspective).
As the image indicates, the ISEA model serves to map attributes of the four perspectives onto a two-dimensional field that functions as an axiological chart — a heuristic cartography for investigating human-Nature relationships through the identification and visualisation of fundamental differentiations within and between the four perspectives. Relatedness is conveyed via spatial relations such that differences among attributes are reflected by where they are located with respect to each other in the ISEA model. Contrasting attributes radiate in opposite directions from the centre. If a specific human-Nature relationship associates strongly with one attribute (such as anthropocentric utility), its associations with other attributes tend to be progressively weaker as one moves around the field in either direction towards the diametrically opposing attribute (such as transcendental empathy).
The attributes shown in the image above characterise the ISEA perspectives on a very general level, such that each perspective acts as a basic template that could be applied to a variety of more specific socio-historical contexts. In any given time and culture, certain perspectives may predominate or play unique social roles, and each perspective will be associated with a particular set of practices, conventions, philosophies and belief systems, if not also with specific concepts, institutions, organizations and individuals.
As a cartographic field for the investigation of human-Nature relationships, the ISEA model can act as the nexus, juncture or superstructure for traversing, organizing, aggregating or collating a variety of issues. These functions may be achieved in several ways by varying the mixture of images and texts as follows:
This is a semiotically rich, pictorially laced version of the ISEA model adapted to addressing the human-Nature relationships in and through sound-related or sound-producing phenomena, events and activities.
In the Instrumental perspective, the often troubled soundscape is considered an environmental issue only insofar as it is framed in rights, privileges, access, consumption and quality of life with respect to amenity and recreational opportunity. Major examples of sound-producing activities commonly include music, entertainments, communications, tourism, transportation, natural resource extraction, industrial development and warfare.
In contrast, the Spiritual perspective encourages outlooks that seek to identify and empathise with Nature through and in the world of environmental sound and music. Spiritually oriented sound making and listening are firmly and enchantingly grounded in the holistic experience and acoustic connection with fauna, flora and biosphere, opening and maintaining communicative channels essential for preserving identity, intimacy and integrity of a sentient world and its inhabitants.
The Pro-Animal/Plant perspective concerns nonhuman lives, explores the aural interfaces and interactions within and between species, and examines how they are affected by anthropogenic sound. There is little or no attention paid to broader ecological or environmental contexts.
On a more macroscopic footing, the Pro-Environment perspective concentrates on complex issues about the integrity and biodiversity of an environment, ecosystem or bioregion. There are clear recognition and monitoring of anthropogenic sound intrusion as an environmental disturbance on a par with other forms of pollution or degradation.
Apart from using images (graphics) and texts (concepts), the more complex, layered visualizations and renditions of the ISEA model through adding concentric domains, grafting new media, topics or subject matters, or superimposing a different model, theory or typology onto the model ― along with their methodological and theoretical considerations ― are well beyond the scope of this discussion.
Submitted as a response to Weekly Writing Challenge: Image vs Text.
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