Audible Concerns


27 April 2016

Technology, Environment and Modern Britain

UCL, London, UK

Annie Jamieson

Here Come the Sound Guards: Controlling the Sound Environment in the Music Festival Industry


In this paper, I argue that, since the mid-twentieth century, cultural and technological imperatives have driven the creation of a new environmental problem: that of sound control. Since the first modern festivals in the 1960s, the rise of festival culture has led to an increasing demand for the opportunity to experience music in large, outdoor venues. This has led to a drive towards bigger, more powerful and louder sound systems while, at the same time, control becomes more important: we want to restrict the propagation of sound to those areas where it is wanted and not those where it becomes a nuisance. Festivals have changed from the one-day-one-stage model to become increasingly large, long and loud.  Together with growing concerns about noise nuisance in general, this means that a careful balancing act is required. In response, regulation has increased, imposing licensing requirements and noise limits, and raising questions of responsibility. The problem of control has led to the emergence of a new specialism within the audio industry: that of “sound guard”.[1]

Since 2000, sound control has moved from a passive, reactive monitoring function, to being an active participant in the planning process for festivals, using complex technologies – some bespoke, some co-opted from other areas – to precisely model and accurately predict the behaviour of sound in specific locations and circumstances. Sound guards work with a variety of stakeholders, including performers, organisers, audiences, neighbours and local authorities. The natural and built environments are also agents in this system: geographical and architectural features of the landscape can have huge effects on sound travel, as can atmospheric conditions and weather.

Building on existing literature in history of science and STS – for example, Emily Thompson on the creation of the modern soundscape or Karin Bijsterveld’s historical study of noise as nuisance – this paper will take a historical approach to the creation of a new ‘festival environment’ and track the development of a complex technological system of sound control that both creates its own environment and is affected by the natural and artificial environments.

[1] “Sound guard” is the literal translation of the Dutch term for such specialists: geluidsbewaker.

15 March 2016

Work-in-Progress Seminar, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

Annie Jamieson

Here Come the Sound Guards: Controlling the Sound Environment in the Music Festival Industry

3 March 2016

HSL logoTechnical Symposium on Hearing Conservation; Emerging Science and Moving Forwards Together

Health & Safety Laboratory, Buxton, UK

Annie Jamieson

Audible Concerns: Perceptions of Hearing Risk in Sound Professionals

[seminar presentation]


 2 March 2016

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Radisson Blu Hotel, Manchester Airport, UK

Annie Jamieson

Audible Concerns: Perceptions of Hearing Risk in Sound Professionals

[poster presentation]


17 February 2016

School of Music, University of Leeds

Annie Jamieson

Delicate Instruments: a Guide to Preserving your Hearing for Musicians

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4 October 2015

FireShot Capture - education - http___www.plasashow.com_education-

PLASA 2015, 4-6 October 2015, ExCel, London

Annie Jamieson

Your Aural Toolkit: a Guide to Preserving your Hearing for Sound Professionals


Working in sound, your sense of hearing is your greatest asset, but do you make as much effort to maintain it as you might? Your work with sound has the potential to threaten this vital sense, jeopardising your career, and yet over-protection could affect your ability to listen critically. This seminar will give you an overview of how your hearing works and the ways in which it can be damaged by over-exposure to sound. It will discuss hearing protection solutions and also practical advice and strategies to avoid or reduce the risk of hearing damage.

14 September 2015

PRO logoPRO 2015: the Performance and Venue Technology Show

12-14 September 2015, NEC Birmingham

Annie Jamieson with Andy Lenthall of the PSA, Jono Heale of ACS and others

Hearing Loss: Are You Listening?

This will be a panel-based discussion of hearing issues in the production industry at which I will present some of my survey results and then we’ll open up for comment and questions from the floor.





3 July 2015

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British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference 2015

2-5 July 2015, Swansea University

Annie Jamieson

Control, Comfort, Consistency: the development of in-ear monitoring systems for on-stage performance


This paper will focus on the development of in-ear monitoring systems (IEMs), used in live performance to allow artists to hear themselves over a highly-amplified performance, to illustrate the session theme of cross-fertilisation of technologies in relation to communication, hearing and deafness, in this case moving forward into the late 20th and 21st centuries.

IEMs emerged in the mid-1980s, in response both to technical issues arising from increasing volume of amplified performance and to concerns about risks to artists’ hearing. In popular music, increasing amplification had led to ‘monitor wars’ whereby, in the bid to allow performers to hear their own voice or instrument over the combined sound level, each had a ‘monitor’ speaker(s) reinforcing their own sound. However, as one monitor got louder, so the others would too, leading both to damaging sound levels on stage and to technical problems, such as feedback.

The first IEMs were based on ‘Walkman’-style headphones but early designers rapidly saw the potential in hearing aid technology, especially micro-transducers, to improve the devices. In common use today, IEMs raise interesting issues in relation to the theme of this session: they incorporate technological advances rooted in telephony and hearing aids in ways that improve performance, overcome technical limitations of other monitoring systems, and protect and enhance artists’ hearing. However, they can equally damage hearing if used inappropriately and can create problems of isolation from the audience and other performers. Thus they demonstrate a further instantiation of the complex relationship between technology, hearing and communication.

28 June 2015


Annie Jamieson

Use of and attitudes towards hearing protection in the sound and music industries: results of a pilot survey


Music-induced hearing loss (MIHL) is increasingly well-recognised as a problem, not just for audiences and musicians but also, though less well-reported, for sound engineers and other production professionals. Whilst hearing protection technology is becoming increasingly effective, there remain concerns amongst professionals that their ability to perform their job will inevitably be affected by any form of protection. This paper reports the results of a pilot survey of 230 workers and students in the sound and music industries, examining attitudes towards hearing risk and protection and patterns of HP use.

16 March 2015

Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Seminar, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Annie Jamieson and Graeme Gooday

“An extreme aspect of the norm”: the troublesome standardization of human hearing (revised version)

12 February 2015

Research Seminar, Department of Philosophy, University of Durham

Annie Jamieson (with Graeme Gooday)

“An extreme aspect of the norm”: the troublesome standardization of human hearing


To some extent, the history of audiometry has been a history of efforts to establish what is “normal” hearing, in order to calibrate audiometers and the tests they support which allow the sorting of subjects into broad categories of “normal” and “impaired” human hearing. This paper will examine episodes in the standardization of hearing for pure tone audiometry to show how the current measure of “normal” hearing has been reached. Drawing on the work of Mara Mills and others it will show how that standardization has been driven, not by the clinical interest of subjects, but rather by technological and financial imperatives, in particular by the needs of the burgeoning telecommunications industry in the early 20th century to reduce human speech and hearing to a component of the telephone network, and by the need to respond to increasing demand for compensation for hearing damage in industry and the military.

However, there is a more subjective school of thought on hearing standards, and the paper will conclude by considering this alternative perspective, illustrated by the work of Australian music psychologist, William G. Noble, especially his 1978 book “Assessment of Impaired Hearing: a critique and a new method” in which Noble critiques the concept of “normal” hearing and argues instead for more personalised measures, based on an acceptance of the individual as a hearing being in a specific context and environment.

14 October 2014

Work-in-Progress Seminar, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

Annie Jamieson

“It’s all gone Pete Tong”: hearing damage and hearing protection in the music industry


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