Quatre ╔coutes

Musicology of Electroacoustic Music [MEM]  >  Listening Experience  ]

This term is one of the key theoretical concepts in Schaeffer’s theory. There are four modes of listening (╔couter, Ou´r, Entendre, Comprendre) which can be arranged in a table with four sections numbered from one to four. They arise from the crossing over of two dualisms which are encountered universally in every perceptual activity: the Abstract/Concrete dualism and the Objective/Subjective dualism (a confrontation between the object of perception and the activity of the perceiving consciousness). Schaeffer represents them as follows:

Abstract Concrete
4. COMPRENDREá 1. ╔COUTER Objective
3. ENTENDREá 2. OU¤R Subjective
  1. ╔couter, is listening to someone, to something; and through the intermediary of sound, aiming to identify the source, the event, the cause, it treats the sound as a sign of this source, this event (Concrete/Objective).
  2. Ou´r, to perceive by the ear, to be struck by sounds, it is the crudest level, the most elementary of perception; so we "hear", passively, lots of things which we are not trying to listen to nor understand (Concrete/Subjective).
  3. Entendre, here, according to its etymology, means showing an intention to listen [Úcouter], choosing from what we hear [ou´r] what particularly interests us, thus "determining" what we hear (Abstract/Subjective).
  4. Comprendre, means grasping a meaning, values, by treating the sound like a sign, referring to this meaning as a function of a language, a code (semantic hearing; Abstract/Objective).

These four modes can be summarised more or less in this sentence: "I heard (ou´r) you despite myself, although I did not listen (Úcouter) at the door, but I didn’t understand (comprendre) what I heard (entendre)." (Paraphrase of Michel Chion (1983). Guide des Objets Sonores. Eds. Buchet/Chastel, Paris. 1995 translation by John Dack/Christine North.)


See also:

Causal Listening, Listening Strategy, Modes of Listening, Reduced Listening, Schaefferian Theory, Semantic Listening, Technological Listening



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Alphabetical order - Chronological order

Chion, Michel (1983). Guide des objets sonores, Pierre Schaeffer et la recherche musicale
Schaeffer, Pierre, Reibel, Guy, Ferreyra Beatriz, (1998 (1967)). SolfŔge de l’objet sonore


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