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We have become masters at producing and reproducing sound, starting with our own voice. The first musical instruments date back more than 40,000 years, and since then we have continued to perfect our mastery of sound. With the addition of artificial intelligence, we are now able to provide everyone with what they want to hear and what suits their tastes. Our ears are being asked to listen from all sides and, unlike the eyes, they always remain open.

But with such efficiency in our satisfaction, there is not as much listening left for others. Individually, our loved ones are not as interesting and, isolated by our headphones, we no longer hear as much of the ambient rumor or the meanings it carries. Soundproofing is still necessary in the city and, in the country, spaces free of mechanical noise are becoming increasingly rare. In such a sound soup, selective deafness develops. Our ability to disregard certain categories of sound is a feature of our mental abilities.

Listening, interpreting what is being said, understanding what is happening; sound processing is a world unto itself. Identifying the source and its orientation, the context, the expressions, the intonations, the syntax, the volume, the rate, the rhythm and even the gestures that accompany the speech, all of these elements can completely transform the meaning of what is being said and convey an emotion beyond even the words. Sometimes a well-placed silence says it all. Some people are good listeners, others are deaf even though they can hear.

Knowing how to decode music is another area rich with subtleties. "Ear culture" is taught in all conservatories. Where an average person hears sounds, a musician will grasp the structure and intent of the composer. Some people are like cats, they are insensitive to music: a string of notes is not a melody. Others lose their hearing acuity, which can only be partially compensated for by hearing aids, hence the importance of soundless communication alternatives.

The pleasure of music, the interest of a story told, the knowledge gained from a lecture, the thrill of whispered words, the soothing sounds of a waterfall, the emotion of a friendly conversation...the world of sound can be rich as it can be degraded. Our soundscape also speaks to the state of our environment.

Denys Lamontagne - [email protected]

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