The History and Future of Listening

How will we listen to music in the future? Science-fiction films, while very inventive when predicting the state of transportation, communication and war in centuries to come, are often surprisingly unimaginative when it comes to music.

A movie like Valerian (2017) shows us a civilization in which almost everything about human life has changed beyond recognition, but where people still listen to music played out of speakers in their spaceship cockpits, or on headphones while they work. This is odd, because the way we listen has changed dramatically over the past two hundred years, and several times within our own lifetime. Each new invention, from the advent of the symphony to the arrival of the ipod, brings with it a whole new set of cultural and social norms around listening, from ‘shushing’ in the concert hall to the idea of music-as-silence, where we stick buds in our ears and turn up the volume in order to not hear sounds we don’t want to hear.

The story of how we have listened, and how we might listen tomorrow is the subject of Australian artist Lucy Dyson’s new installation at Loop. Dyson’s collage and animation work has always had a close relationship with music - she’s renowned for her striking music videos and concert visuals (including projections for Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ tour last year). But the connection goes deeper; Dyson’s universe is one in which hundreds of tiny fragments of photographic material scavenged from the streets and flea-markets of Berlin come together in an elaborate dance - somewhere between a Busby Berkley musical and a planetarium display. The way these elements fit together is literally, to hear Dyson tell it, born of listening - as the music plays, she begins assembling a mental jigsaw from the images at her fingertips, connecting the parts according to musical cues. For her Loop installation, Dyson zooms even closer into her material, excising ‘music molecules’ from found images, and sending these on a trip through five centuries of listening; from the days when music was heard in close proximity or not at all, to the scarcely imaginable modes of listening that await us in the future.

Open daily, 10am until closing

Artist : Lucy Dyson