The method to the madness of hearing

Casual, semantic, and reduced listening are phrases I had never heard before reading this article. In a way, reading the article showed me the different ways I am capable of listening to the world around me and make sense of the madness that our noisy world is. 

Casual listening: As I understand it to be, casual listening is the way we tend to use to decipher the world around us on a surface level. It is used to find the source of a sound or to build a profile of something or someone. An example Chion used was a dog barking. As someone who has two dogs, this was very eye-opening for me because I’ve never really thought about it. I have always been able to find my dog’s bark at the dog park but I never paid attention to how much that may have related to there not being other dogs the same breed as mine. The only time I have really encountered this issue was with my old dog. When my friend would come over with her dog, we had a hard time telling which of our dogs were barking because they had very similar barks. Perhaps that was because the were at least part of the same breed. 

Semantic listening: I struggled a bit to understand that semantic listening is what we use when we are deciphering language/code. Once I understood what it meant, I really like how Chion broke down how complex it really was and how it’s so often used with casual listening when listening to someone speak. Chion broke down how semantic listening will ignore similar sounds in languages unless they are completely different, such as the phoneme a in French and English.

Reduced listening: To my understanding, reduced listening is when one is solely listening to the complex features of sound rather than the source or meaning behind it. This reminded me of how I listen to music that I am choreographing to. I listen to the specific layers and dimensions of the sounds within a song to connect movement that portrays the same type or complete contrast of the dimension. Chion used the examples of people describing a sound as “squeaking” when forced to try and describe a sound without the cause, meaning, or effect. “Squeaking” is a descriptive term that could apply to the cause, meaning, or effect because of the ambiguity of language. 

At the beginning of the article, Chion mentioned synchresis and I had no clue what it meant so I had to look it up. It lead me to which is a site that had an explanation but also more information about what Chion was talking about and a lot of other fascinating articles. I found that synchresis is an acronym that was formed by putting the words synchronism and synthesis together. According the the site, the possibility of reassociation of image and sound is fundamental to the making of filmsound ( This lead me down a fascinating rabbit hole of film sounds and foley, the recreation of common sounds using different objects to make sound effects for movies such as punching a steak to make the sound of a punch for a fight. My exploration reminded me of how the Star Wars blaster sound was created, by hitting a telephone tower wire with a metal object like a wrench or hammer (

Amongst all of this, I had to question what type of hearing was I doing now? What type of listening do I tend to fall into on a daily basis? As I work, I play music to help me focus but I can only work with certain types of music. Does it count as reduced listening if I am only paying attention to dimensions of the music while I work and not what the lyrics are saying, what instruments are being played, or the meaning of the song? Active listening is when all your focus is on one person or thing to completely understand and hear what the person or thing is expressing. Can active listening also be considered semantic listening when it is in the context of listening to someone and reduced listening when deciphering music? Or would it be considered casual semantic listening in the context of actively listening to music?

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