Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Listening to Yourself Listening: The Metaperceptual Approach to Sound Art

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posted on 2021-12-07, 11:36 authored by Johnston, Blake

This thesis presents a framework for the creation and analysis of metaperceptual sound artworks. Metaperceptual is a term coined herein to describe a range of works that use the perception of the audience as their artistic materials. They provoke their audiences to direct their attention back upon themselves, inviting audiences to observe the nature of their perception and the subjectivity of their experience.  A core focus of many contemporary works is the experience of the audience. These works act as ‘experience shapers’, guiding the audience through their materials and creating environments in which the audience can explore on their own terms. Metaperceptual works share this focus by drawing the audience’s attention back upon themselves, provoking them to attend to the subjectivity of their own experience. These works reveal facets of our perception that constantly mediate our experience, yet often go overlooked and unexplored.  The framework presents a systematic ordering of different approaches to creating metaperceptual works. Three main categories of works are identified: Deprivation, Perceptual Translation, and Perceptual Hacking.  Deprivation works involve the removal, reduction, or denial of the audience’s perceptual field. They intervene in the audience’s everyday modes of interaction by silencing the din of the world, revealing the facets of experience that often go unnoticed or are masked from our awareness.  Perceptual Translation works directly interface with the audience’s perceptual apparatus by shifting, extending, and rearranging its orientation and organisation. These works offer the allure of experiencing what it is like to be someone or something else. By allowing us to experience the world through an altered lens, these works give us a new perspective on ourselves and the ways in which our perceptual apparatus mediates our experience.  Lastly, Perceptual Hacking works involves a rich variety of perceptual oddities and artefacts. These works creatively misuse facets of the audience’s perceptual apparatus and perceptual processes, and, in doing so, reveal that our perception is not a neutral objective lens through which to perceive the world.  Metaperceptual works employ a diversity of materials and techniques, and traverse a variety of media and styles. While these themes have most extensively been explored in the visual arts, their potential for sonic exploration is a key concern subject of this research. The framework maps the artistic terrain of metaperceptual approaches, and speculates on the potential for new metaperceptual works. To this end, a portfolio of new metaperceptual sound artworks is presented. These works test the metaperceptual framework, enacting the artistic avenues identified during its development. The works span a range of the approaches identified in the metaperceptual framework, and are manifestations of the framework as a creative tool.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Murphy, Jim; Norris, Michael; Kapur, Ajay