I’ve been catching up on Wonderlab, a three day workshop put on by Hide&Seek and LIFT which explored digital tools and the ethos of play. Participants were asked to share something that inspires a sense of wonder in them, and you can watch the videos if this wonder-sharing here. That’s where I came across Melanie Wilson, a performer, writer and sound artist who talked about a sound installation at the Barbican by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot involving zebra finches and amplified guitars, and it got me thinking about the power of sound.
Last year I participated in Duncan Speakman’s ‘subtlemob’, As If It Were the Last Time. I downloaded an mp3 onto my phone, turned up, and at the specified time I pressed play. What followed was a soundtrack involving narration and instructions, and I moved with the story amongst everyone else in the area, never sure who else was listening to the same thing I was.
I can see why Melanie cited a sound-led experience as something that inspired a sense of wonder in her. I think there’s something about sound being intangible that can create a sort of magic. And there’s a different kind of experience when you’re listening privately through headphones. When I experienced Duncan Speakman’s piece, there was a strange (but nice) mixture of an incredibly personal experience in a very public place that made it feel like a secret.
There’s a lot to unpack here: sound art, ambient sound, music, tone of voice, etc and they all have an effect on us, sometimes without us realising. For now, check out Julian Treasure’s TED talk on The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us. And the next time it rains, have a listen to Hannah Nicklin’s sound walk, Walk With Me.