From almost any perspective it seems abundantly clear that our modern and highly technical culture has largely forgotten how to listen with clear attention to the details of our natural and cultural environments. For most people, music is now something that goes on at a background level of perception and fewer people each year now even bother to visit the non-human world where the sounds of nature can be apprehended. All of this has been made more critical by the changing nature of technology itself. The shift away from high-resolution audiophile sound systems to portable devices capable of storing thousands of highly compressed musical objects has sacrificed dynamic range and subtlety for attention grabbing volume and convenience. The “music industry” forces most of its product through the sonic cheesecloth of compression—both auditory and data-based—to offer undifferentiated walls of loudness heard over tiny “earbuds” incapable of nuance.
As a strategy to either compete with—or drown out—the din of urban life, all of this leads to a fatigue of our ears and our capacity to focus. Our inattention to the sounds of other living things has obviously carried with it dire outcomes. Our speed of living is a guarantee that little of our aural culture can be paid attention to other than as “sound bites.” So much of what serious composers and musicians do is shape our awareness to the deeper levels of reality through sound. It is a holding action against our collective disregard for the rich details of meaning that life and culture present to our ears.
iSAW is dedicated to creating circumstances that reverse this tendency for auditory numbing. It produces events, new creative works, educational awareness, and preservation of historical evidence, that are all occasions to experience and enliven our interconnectedness to the world made manifest through sound.