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Making Room for Resonance



“Making Room for Resonance,” Sound Installation, RBC Media Gallery, 2022.

Making Room for Resonance: a space for sonic illusion and sensation

Exploring Spatial-Tactile Sounds in a Gallery Setting

The final semester of my MFA has been dedicated to exploring the temporal dimension of sound and movement through spatial and tactile sound experiments. I have begun to truly understand that I am choreographing sound and that this composition style deals with arrangements in time and space. As such, the term “Embodied Sonic Design” has emerged as an apt description of my artistic process both in the creation of sound and the experience of it.
Movement Study

Having developed an understanding of how the movement of sound creates an embodied experience, I felt it necessary to chart exactly which movements and what sounds specifically reveal themselves together in a significant and satisfying way. For this project I am moving sound using tactile reproductions of sound, contact microphone recordings, and a spatial drawing technique. The most audio-kinesthetically discernable movement was derived through consistent repetition and were motions that could be transposed between different body parts or understood as whole-body movement. It is important that the movements were short, repeatable actions in order to be more accessible to bodies with different patterns of mobility and hearing ability. Jumping, swaying, swinging, shaking, and approaching and departing – either from the sound source or the recording device, at varied speeds – were movements that translated through sound. Once repetition of the same movement was established, specific characters of the movement and variations in quality were revealed. The static shapes I created with my body were not as interesting because they relied on an understanding of how the space was visually composed. Consistently reestablishing the shaping of my body through movement, however, enabled a better understanding of the state of my body and how it was relating to the space.

With a keen awareness of my bodily state while moving, I was careful to determine what I hoped would transfer to another body, empathetically. The movements I chose made me feel invigorated but in control. The repetition allowed me to recognize how sound was shaped by movement, and encouraged a flow state. I was pleased to be able to lose track of the execution of the movement in favour of feeling it in my body and noticing the changes in the sound. This state of simple physical engagement encourages the exploration of pleasure, leaving room for adjustments and self-determining the degree of development and duration. These movements made me feel open and receptive and I suspect that this level of autonomy can be sensed. In sharing this movement, I am inviting participation of mirror neurons, or kinesthetic projection. Kinesthetic projection considers the feeling and the bodily implications of that movement, not its representative qualities or its performative merit. The movement I am working with here can be described as “non-matrixed representation” which Philip Auslander defines as a performance “in which the performer does not embody a fictional character but ‘merely carries out certain actions” (32). To a certain extent, this movement is defamiliarized as the significance is not in auditory readability but through sensory relatability.


Making Room for Resonance was installed in Emily Carr’s RBC Media Gallery, a separate gallery space within the main concourse of the Michael O’Brian Exhibition Commons on the second floor of the building. Removed physically, to contain the acoustic arena (Meelberg 12) the enclosed space designates a more intimate experience. The space feels at once close, yet expansive. The light-colored carpeting extends to each wall and supports three rectangular boxes which seem to be floating above dim, warm lighting. This light highlights the fibres of the carpet in a way that resembles sand and gently illuminates the features of the room – enough to orient without bringing in visual expectations.

“Making Room for Resonance,” Installation Image, RBC Media Gallery, 2022.

Artistic research for Making Room for Resonance developed through the fabrication of a series of sonic surfaces and resonant sound structures. The installation features four wall panels, five square feet each, installed as one large panel and three rectangular wooden seats. Fixed to the projection wall of the gallery, normally displaying video, the wall panels occupy the focal point of the small gallery space by design. By directing audiences’ attention and orienting towards this wall I offer an invitation to listen, in order to see. The wall panels are outfitted with audio transducers concealed behind the surfaces , beckoning investigation. These devices vibrate the surface of the wall to amplify sound, effectively creating a speaker out of each surface.

I use this ability to spread out the projection of sound to emphasise the movement of each sound across the surface. Choreographing the movement of the sound between each of the transducers further animates the sound as it moves across the wooden surface which stretches ten feet wide and ten feet tall . The movement of the sound emulates the movement of my body throughout the experiments: gliding gently back and fourth, swinging, jumping, shaking. The movement is virtualized on a large scale across the length of the facade, created by the wall panels and out in the space through the rectangular sound structures.

“Making Room for Resonance,” Sound Installation, RBC Media Gallery, 2022.

The sound work begins with recorded breathing, occurring at the height of my head, moving slowly side to side, pausing momentarily with anticipation of what is to come. The sound of fingertips grazing the surface materialise, disembodied but occurring at distinct locations across the wall panels. This contact, preserved as sonic expression, is the gesture which consistently anchors the body as both the sounding vehicle and mode of reception. Upon entering, an audience member may immediately detect a scratching sound. The consequent embodied understanding of this act is the premise for the work: knowing through the production of audible movement. The breathing sounds become louder and are drawn out to become one long sustained exhale, matching the sound frequency of blue-noise. The breathing, blue-noise and humming traces the surface, expanding the perceptual arena eventually filling the wall before seeping out into the space where the rectangular structures, made of the same birch plywood, soak it up: absorbing the blue-noise as a heavy pink-noise. These structures are outfitted with tactile bass-shakers which rumble sequentially as the sound makes its way around the room and back up the wall. This motion perpetuates through out the 20 minute immersive installation, which loops indeterminably. The invitation to sit or lie on the rectangular structures allows for a deeper encounter with the movement of sound as the bodies of audience absorb excess vibration. The people in the room, their positions and location, affect the expression of sound throughout the space. Sonic gestures travel through the resonant sound structures, across the surface of the wall and ring out, reflecting into areas of the room with no capacity for sound production.

My bodily presence is most distinctly conveyed by moments of recorded physical contact, using a highly sensitive contact microphone to capture the impact which is in-turn reproduced upon the same surface it was created. I perform gentle brushes on the wall which increase to sweeps, taps, and resolve in full body restful contact, leaning against the wall. I found a comforting familiarity in this sound as it resembles the sounds heard while in a state of rest, allowing the body and a turned head to yield into the floor.

The Sonic Presence

I am imbuing sound with movement qualities. All of these sounds are produced using my body and are meant to connect with the audience through spatial awareness as well as through a bodily understanding of the conditions of the soundwaves.

My artistic research with sound has been the most profound exploration of spatial thinking and how I make sense of the world through movement. My research examines proprioceptive perception and the way human bodies interpret the world through the senses. I’m asking the audience to feel movement through listening. The choice to use only sound that comes from my body is another level of embodied sonic design. As I edit the sounds I am tuning and composing variances with a virtual panner, affecting the sound in the same way movement does.

In Sound Theory, Sound Practice Rick Altman discusses film sound demonstrating aspects of recorded sound and the semiotics of sound perception. Altman clarifies the role of recorded sound as a representation of a sound event rather than considering it a reproduction of the sound, which not only must be established by the location of the sound reception – the same way a camera lens has a particular perspective – but also by the conditions of the recording of the event. This is where my work becomes a bodily narrative. The way we are used to receiving recorded sound puts us at the centre of the experience where we each experience a universal, singular perspective. This installation uses space to facilitate different perspectives which are determined by individual bodies, sensory capacities, spatial orientation, and timing throughout the duration of the piece.
Ultimately, I am exemplifying an internal, felt experience. This is in an effort not only to be witnessed, but to share something as it is felt. This could one day be presented as dance, with intricate movement patterns mapped onto different surfaces, apparatuses, and spatial schemes. This would require a much more sophisticated capture but I am interested in the idea of how much movement can be tracked simultaneously and at what point the motion amalgamates, amounting potentially to an entirely different form. Can movement be heard in the way a harmony of tones becomes one sound, as a chorus of action?

I had planned to make this piece shorter, one that would express all ideas within the timeframe most gallery patrons remain in a space, effectively summarising the ideas in a display rather than offering the experience. The sense of embodiment requires time to take hold and develops alongside 20 minutes of my recorded, intentional and ataractic breathing. The freedom to enter and exit the room means that each sound produced is an invitation to learn more but on the audiences’ terms. The work was available on-loop for ten consecutive days and I have received many comments about audience members returning to the work several times and wishing they could stay in the space for longer. The experience of the work in the space has been described as activating and engaging but relaxing and it seems it was a place for many to seek refuge from the days events. Had I succumbed to the pressure of a shorter, more accessible expression of these ideas I’m not sure the impact would have been as significant and the desire to pull audiences’ attention along a narrative progression fell away with this understanding. I am curious to see how this work affects an audience within a different building, would the stress-reducing experience be replaced by an invigorated one? Outside of an institution would we be able to experience something deeper than a juxtaposition to the immediate external environment? I look forward to exploring the effects of different circumstances on the work and its reception.