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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This paper examines compositions and performances created by scientists and musicians who seek to make music for cochlear implants, surgically implanted assistive medical technologies used by many hard-of-hearing and deaf people. The implant employs a microphone to capture an audio signal, which is then divided into frequency bands and transmitted to a receiver emplaced in a recipient’s skull, behind the ear. The implant provides poor reproduction of those timbral features of sound central to many normative experiences and expectations of music. Compositions and performances for implant users seek either (1) to improve the way the implant processes frequency, (2) to create music that works well with an implant’s available frequency profile, or (3) to access the implant directly, crafting music specially tailored for the implant through the device’s signal relays. Critically assaying such projects, this paper reevaluates and recontextualizes what can count as timbre in diverse deaf and hearing worlds.

Keywords: cochlear implants, timbre, deaf music, dis/ability, signal transduction, vibration, ASL

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