My mind has been preoccupied lately with the concept of negative space and figure-ground perception. As an example of what I’m talking about, check out Rubin’s face / vase or the Young Lady / Old Hag. You’ve also probably seen Escher’s tessellations before. But what I’m trying to come to a conclusion on is whether or not this phenomenon is possible to accomplish with sound.

Certainly we can construct backgrounds that evolve through a scene or level that become the foreground object. But we make the transition for the listener. We mix and edit with the transformation as our goal. But is it possible to design sound that can be perceived two different ways by people upon one listening? How about by the same person upon repeated listening?

I’m taking the stance that it cannot, simply because we all work along a linear timeline and this is a concept from 2D art. For these images to work you have to essentially overload your visual input to the point that you can switch your mind to begin seeing the other image. But I really, really want to be proven wrong. Can you rationalize this for me? Have you or some sound artist you’ve heard of explored this terrain?

I may be out in left field here. But this notion has been rolling over and over in my mind.