This is an abstract from the Beyond Listening symposium program.

Auditory Respiration

Eric Leonardson

Wednesday 22 November — Presentations


This year I was diagnosed with moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The treatment requires me to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. As a by-product of its operation, I experience a new relationship to my body, by hearing the sound of my breathing beside me from the machine. By exteriorizing my breathing, it displaces an aspect of myself. The machine not only makes me audibly aware of my own breathing, it also sends data about my breathing, my sleep, and the machine’s function for collection and access by my doctor and me. On learning that the health of our soundscapes and our bodies are more closely so via technologies that sense and monitor previous unconscious and mostly unheard physical processes, I became intrigued with the fact that what had once been a daily, private part of my physical self and culture is now, using “smart devices,” a shared source of data made possible through industries of medical and computer sciences. In this sense the recorded audio of the machine in this 3-minute sample serves to illustrate the metaphorical and sonic material opportunity to compose a new sound project, which is now in a conceptual stage. For Beyond Listening I am proposing its final realization in the form of a physical sound installation on site. From a soundscape perspective it inhabits another facet of the autonomic processes of listening; made exterior through monitoring by the use in-homes sensors, soundscapes and the built environment, as well as the future health and aging. On another level it may also engage others in their breathing. Listening to another’s breathing may invoke awareness and synchronicity of one’s own breath.


Eric Leonardson, a Chicago-based audio artist, often presents on acoustic ecology to new audiences beyond art world contexts, engaging and connecting communities in the interrelationships of sound, listening, and environment. He is an Associate Professor, Adjunct in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Leonardson serves as president of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology), established in 2009, and is a co-founder of the World Listening Project (WLP), established in 2008. Leonardson performs internationally with the Springboard, a self-built instrument made in 1994.

Eric Leonardson