Six young people with sensory impairments and complex communication needs are making music through a series of Sense Arts workshops. The workshops are part of a project called ‘Music Is A Vibration’, and are being led by a musician and an artist who use innovative audiovisual technology to overcome communication barriers.
As Arts and Wellbeing coordinator for Sense, I’ve been really excited to see and hear musical compositions being developed by people with sensory impairments and complex communication needs. This is being made possible with technology that allows participants to explore the physical world through sound and vibrations.
With the support of musician Tom Peel, and artist Justin Wiggan, young people are fulfilling their creative potential using software to translate drawings and vibrations into ‘sonic signatures’ and musical works that are physically experienced through innovative vibrating backpacks made by ‘SubPac’.
During the early stages of the project, the main objective of the sessions was for Tom and Justin to grow relationships with the participants through games and activities. These activities helped them get to know and understand the communication methods and musical interests within the group.
The games and activities also supported the young participants to become familiar with the instruments and technology, as well as the different spaces the workshop would take place in.
Innovative technology overcomes communication barriers
Initially, the young people taking part were introduced to different technology that could translate visual marks into sounds. Using tablets with ‘noise graffiti’ software, patterns were drawn and transformed into frequencies.
In other sessions, participants spoke their names into microphones. The recordings of their voices were then manipulated by them using a ‘digital spinner’ which changed the pitch in a fun and creative way.
From these early workshops, the patterns drawn on tablets were transformed into ‘sonic signatures’ that were then transferred into SubPac backpacks which, when worn, allowed the participants to feel their own sounds through low level vibrations on their body made by the packs.
The ‘sonic tags’ are also now on display at Sense’s TouchBase Pears multipurpose venue in Birmingham, where members of the community can experience the sounds created in the workshop.
The young people have really shown an eagerness to learn more, and are developing a new level of independence as they continue to explore music and prepare for a final exhibition at TouchBase Pears and mac Birmingham on 18-20 May.