a1 Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, BT7 1NN, UK
Listeners experience electroacoustic music as full of significance and meaning, and they experience spatiality as one of the factors contributing to its meaningfulness. If we want to understand spatiality in electroacoustic music, we must understand how the listener’s mental processes give rise to the experience of meaning. In electroacoustic music as in everyday life, these mental processes unite the peripheral auditory system with human spatial cognition. In the discussion that follows we consider a range of the listener’s mental processes relating space and meaning from the perceptual attributes of spatial imagery to the spatial reference frames for places and navigation. When considering multichannel loudspeaker systems in particular, an important part of the discussion is focused on the distinctive and idiomatic ways in which this particular mode of sound production contributes to and situates meaning. These include the phenomenon of image dispersion, the important consequences of the precedence effect and the influence of source characteristics on spatial imagery. These are discussed in close relation to the practicalities of artistic practice and to the potential for artistic meaning experienced by the listener.