Lawrence English is a composer, sound artist, and curator based in Australia. As an avid field recordist, English explores the sounds of environments he finds himself in, exploring the way we aurally perceive the world. By mingling the worlds of acoustic and electronic sounds, he challenges his audiences to experience the physical nature of sounds they might otherwise have placed on the back burner.
As well as an artist, English is in his fifteenth year of running Room40, the record label he started to release his own works as well as artists of kindred spirit.
You buy a new album, or hear a new piece for the first time, describe your routine/experience of its first listening.
Alas there is no routine. Time is our greatest asset and is never in abundance. It’s rare for me to find a ‘pure’ listening experience for music these days…so I must invest in repeated visits under varied conditions. Only during field recording, where presence is everything do I regularly find deep audition.
On subsequent listens to that same record/piece, which aspects of the music do you focus your listening on. How does your listening perspective change over time?
It’s utterly variable. Both environment, technology and mind space serious alter focus and attention. It’s one of the pleasures of returning. The path might follow the same route, but the view is always different.
If you could choose your favorite listening environment, what would it be? what draws you to that place to hear the music you’re listening too?
Music in a place I’ve never been, whilst waiting. This is possibly the result of too many tours and sitting in airports….that’s one of the times I listen most. If not that, then during cooking.
How does one make their listening listened to? What is the best avenue to communicate your listening experience to others?
I’ve developed an idea around this called relational listening. You can read about it via the paper attached.
How does your focused listening to music help you hear the world around you? How does it build awareness to the sounds in your everyday life?
Sense is everything for us. Our way of knowing, our way of imagining too. Without one sense our perspectives are altered and perhaps even heightened. That said, like anything, these senses need us to condition ourselves to utilise them to their full potential. The more we come to recognise the power of each sense the greater and richer the opportunities are for us to exploit and explore them!
Are there differences in how you listen to music as a performer, versus and audience member? how so?
Definitely. Each provides certain shared possibilities – the occupation of the body for example. But in performance I find my mind works differently, seeking particular conditions of possibility from what I know might be attained. What might be possible. As audience these are not my concerns.
For a detailed description of English’s theory of relational listening read: