Platial Phenomenology and Environmental Composition
This study concerns field recordings, location audio gathered from unscored and unexpected sounds, which retain an indexical relationship to their origin in the natural world. The term “environmental music” describes aesthetic works that use field recordings as primary material. This practice requires an engagement with the ontology and phenomenology of place, but such relationships have remained under-theorised. This study addresses this lacuna by developing a rich vocabulary of place that can aid both the practice and analysis of environmental music. The historical development begins with the multiplicity of concepts of place known to the Ancient Greeks. One of these, Ptolemy’s geos, based on a God’s-eye view of the world, has dominated understandings of the world and its effects, hence the term “geography”. This perspectivism was reinforced first by Alberti’s optics, which placed a viewer in a strict topological relationship to the object of their gaze, and then by Cartesian rationalism, a philosophy that reduced place to mere secondary characteristics of an ordered, homogeneous space. Against this background, alternative models of place will be discussed. Topos, exemplified by tales like “The Odyssey”, emphasises the perambulations of an individuated subject, foregrounding the experiential nature of the journey. The klimata of Ptolemy models place as psychic zones of influence on the Earth. Plato’s khoros is both receptacle and material, a generative site of instability and unknowability. Taken together, these concepts assert the primacy of place as milieu, a responsive context that shapes, and is shaped by, being-in-the-world. The word “platial” is proposed to encompass this understanding. This thesis is supported by the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as interpreted by Tim Ingold and Edward Casey. Analysis of the environmental music of Dallas Simpson, Robert Curgenven, and the author illustrate how platial thinking can provide deep insights into a variety of creative sonic practices.
- PhD