Curating Milieux (2010)

Harvey, L. 2010, ‘Curating milieux’, in The Curator in the Academy, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, Australia, pp. 32-50 ISBN: 9781921875137.

Excerpt from opening of chapter…

The milieu and the standing patterns of behaviour, through the synomorphy that weds them, form the final environmental unit. The designer does not design the environmental unit, only its milieu. His influence is limited to that which his milieu, through synomorphy, contributes to the final standing-patterns-of-behaviour-and-milieu unit. (Gump, 1971, p. 132)

In his 1971 article in Landscape Architecture, Gump describes how behavioursetting theory may be useful for designers. After first presenting the main components of the theory, he posits that it “may be useful in delineating the place of [designers’] efforts in relation to the human environments which actually become established. The designer develops milieu…” (Gump, 1971, p. 132). Gump goes on to say that the degree of influence the designer has on the final standing-pattern-of-behaviour-and-milieu-unit, is limited by the contribution made by the milieu he (or she) designs. The designer first asks, “What goes on here?” (Gump, 1971, p. 134).

My position is that the practice of spatial sound design and spatial sound curation, are to establish an auditory milieu that provokes aural attention listening. To briefly invoke the information theory distinctions of signal and noise, the presence of sound design is to enhance or increase the signal, the auditory information for the listener. It is not purely about the measurable or audio recordable components of an acoustic environment. The listener’s answer to “What goes on here?” is as much a determinant as the measurable audio signal itself. Cultural audiences in different settings have different modes of auditory reception. A concert is a distinctly different setting to an interactive installation; a site-of-respite in an urban setting differs from a gallery installation, a multi-channel soundscape system is different to a concert. Yet the potential significance of these milieux is not their inherent differences, but the possible links between them. The question arises: what could be the circuits of auditory information that are operating between milieux in an urban environment?


Gump, P. V. (1971). The Behaviour Setting : A Promising Unit for Environmental Designers. Landscape Architecture, 61, January, 1971, 130- 134.

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