Boomkat Product Review:
Maryanne Amacher (1938 - 2009) is one of electronic music's true mavericks, whose music is almost exclusively presented in huge spaces and installations and rarely captured on any recorded formats. This collection of electronic soundscapes and "ear-dances" was compiled by Amacher in 1999 with the specific aim of working in more intimate settings.
Amacher was best known for working extensively with a family of psychoacoustic phenomena called auditory distortion products in which the ears themselves produce audible sound. On this collection these acoustic effects take you to expansive worlds of difference tones and psychedelic sonorities. These tones have a long history in music theory and scientific research, and are still the object of disagreement and debate. In music, they are most commonly known as 'combination tones’, 'difference tones', and sometimes 'Tartini tones' (after the violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who is credited with discovering them).
Amacher herself termed them 'ear tones' until 1992, when she discovered the work of David T. Kemp and Thomas Gold and began referring to them by the psychoacoustical terminology of 'otoacoustic emissions’ Occurring in response to two pure tones presented simultaneously to the ear, these tones appear to localise in or around the head, as though there were a 'tiny loudspeaker inside the ear’.
Amacher was the first to systematically explore the musical use of these phenomena using electroacoustic sound technologies. The subtitle of this collection, 'Making the Third Ear’, is a reference to them. She describes the subjective experience of these phenomena as follows:
"When played at the right sound level, which is quite high and exciting, the tones in this music will cause your ears to act as neurophonic instruments that emit sounds that will seem to be issuing directly from your head ... (my audiences) discover they are producing a tonal dimension of the music which interacts melodically, rhythmically, and spatially with the tones in the room. Tones 'dance' in the immediate space of their body, around them like a sonic wrap, cascade inside ears, and out to space in front of their eyes ... Do not be alarmed! Your ears are not behaving strange or being damaged! ... these virtual tones are a natural and very real physical aspect of auditory perception, similar to the fusing of two images resulting in a third three dimensional image in binocular perception ... I want to release this music which is produced by the listener."