Ellison, Barbara (2014) Sonic Phantoms Compositional explorations of perceptual phantom patterns. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

I use the term ‘Sonic Phantoms’ to refer as a whole to a cohesive collection of sound compositions that I have developed over the past five years (2009-2014; fifty pieces, structured in four separate collections / series), dealing at a fundamental level with perceptual auditory illusions. For the creation of this compositional body of work, I have developed a syncretic approach that encompasses and coalesces all kinds of sources, materials, techniques and compositional tools: voices (real and synthetic), field recordings (involving wilderness expeditions worldwide), instrument manipulation (including novel ways of ‘preparation’), object amplification, improvisation and recording studio techniques. This manifests a sonic-based and perceptive-based understanding of the compositional work, as an implicitly proposed paradigm for any equivalent work in terms of its trans-technological, phenomena-based nature.

By means of the collection of pieces created and the research and contextualisation presented, my work with ‘Sonic Phantoms’ aims at bringing into focus, shaping and defining a specific and dedicated compositional realm that considers auditory illusions as essential components of the work and not simply mere side effects. I play with sonic materials that are either naturally ambiguous or have been composed to attain this quality, in order to exploit the potential for apophenia to manifest, bringing with it the ‘phantasmatic’ presence.

Both my compositions and research work integrate and synergise a considerable number of disparate musical traditions (Western and non-Western), techno-historical moments (from ancient / archaic to electronic / computer-age techniques), cultural frameworks (from ‘serious’ to ‘popular’), and fields of interest / expertise (from the psychological to the musical), into a personal and cohesive compositional whole. All these diverse elements are not simply mentioned or referenced, but have rather defined, structured and formed the resulting compositional work.

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