Ecological Auditory Research (EAR) is a private music, speech and hearing research laboratory working on the ecological (or Direct Realist) concept of auditory perception.
Unlike psychoacoustic theorists, who attempt to explain hearing by analysing perturbations in the media, our ecological approach is concerned with the properties of the sound source that generate what we experience as the sensation of sound and its various auditory qualities. Among these are attributes such as subjective pitch and timbre in music; and in speech, we address vowels, consonants, pitch, tone, and intonation. The laboratory undertakes to develop the hypothesis that was presented in a doctoral thesis by Akpan Jimmy Essien on The Perception of Yoruba Tone at the Institute of Phonetics and Applied Linguistics, Sorbonne University (Paris III), France (1994-2000).
Figure 1: The components of the Yoruba talking drum. In (a) is the double-headed hour-glass-shaped wooden resonator. The heads are covered with skin membrane as in (b). In (c) the membranes at both ends of the resonator are connected by means of tendons, and the drum is ready to play. The curved-headed striker (d) provides the means of exciting the membrane. (Artwork by the author, p245 of The Ecological Foundation…)
One major challenge we faced was access to a laboratory. The thesis that was presented at Sorbonne University addressed primarily the perception of phonemic tones by means of drums (see figure 1). The mechanical basis helped explain the co-existence of tone and intonation in tone languages, as well as the intelligibility of speech in a tone language despite contextual modifications and outright losses of tone in connected speech. The thesis could have been published soon after its presentation in February 2000. However, the thesis addressed primarily the production and perception of phonemic tone. For it to constitute the foundation of hearing sciences, it was compelling to experiment and write up a comprehensive theory of hearing. In this regard, the principle of pitch regulation on the Yoruba drum does not allow for quantitative evaluation of the size of force exerted on the membrane through the tendons. To overcome this lack, it was necessary to conduct new experiments on strings. To that end, it was indispensable to design and build a special string tuner (fig. 2) for measuring the force that is the inherent property of the string as opposed to the force that is exerted externally to the string (usually called tension). Every other thing would yield a partial accomplishment; and there was no reason for it since the work at Sorbonne had laid out all the facts. The string data complemented the drum data in the thesis to produce a comprehensive theory of hearing, and established a mechanical foundation for hearing sciences on the basis of invariance. The detailed report in the book testifies not only to the complexity of the problems but also to the significance of invariance as a guiding principle in resolving deeply entrenched problems of human behaviour.
To overcome the laboratory problem, one bedroom in our London residence from where we operate was converted into a laboratory. Our director, formerly an architectural designer and building constructor, got all the work done. He also designed the string tuner for construction by Lines Guitars UK. The design of the string tuner allowed for sound recording without recourse to microphones. This provision enhanced noise control and facilitated stimuli acquisition during recording sessions.
Figure 2: The experimental string tuner. Three strings in different densities are under tension. The balanced-force exerted on each string is recorded in kg by a spring balance for each string. A ruler permits reading off the effective length of string at the position of each mobile bridge. A hi-fi sound recorder was plucked into the integrated pick-up socket to capture the tones produced on the strings.
Now that the major preliminary experiments with musicians are through, we have recovered our bedroom. We look forward to a laboratory outside the home from the sales of our publications.
We have supported ourselves for three and-a-half decades from family funds up till now. Generous supporters are welcome. Such support will be allocated to a project and generously acknowledged in the resulting published research articles.
Please contact us if your love for scientific progress with humanitarian accomplishments in view compels you to help.