Sensuality and Proportion
a primer in sound for architects.


Hearing is a property of the whole body.

This picture of a Zaire Harp is a reminder. We hear as living organisms: synaesthetically - sight sound smell touch taste - we make sound and are ourselves vibrating, alive.

Vibrations are set up within the diaphragm and body cavities, through the spine and skeleton, the cavities of the head, through the skin, we hear through the soles of our feet and the tips of our fingers quite literally - touch a vibrating object to find out. The whole body is in vibration, under its own impulses, and in sympathetic resonation to the acoustic environment. A vast complex of acoustic information is at our disposal.

Although the most sensitive organs for hearing are the ears, it is important to locate hearing, not just within the ear/head/brain, but within the whole body.

From this welter of sound, internal and external, we can discern certain things of importance to us. Listening: is an act of volition. At any one time there will be a 'foreground' a focus of aural attention, and a chaotic background - the part one is not listening to.

left - a Harp (kundi) from Mangbetu, NE Zaire. Wood h 87 cm, early C20.

Illustration from 'Sounding Forms' 1989 - catalogue - AFA.

The ear: seat of balance | index