Young people with sensory impairments exhibit sonic works of art

A young girl and woman hold hands as they touch and interact with a wooden interactive art piece

Over the past several months, Sense Arts has been working closely with six young people with sensory impairments and complex communication needs through a series of music making workshops.

These workshops were part of a project called ‘Music is a Vibration’,  which is an inclusive arts project that enabled the young people to co-produce their own musical compositions. The project put young people at the heart of several immersive environments in which they were able to create music and experience soundscapes. The workshops were led by artists Tom Peel and Justin Wiggan, assisted by Sense support worker and musician, Bamba Dia.

The arts project had positive emotional, social and physical effects

A group of adults and children in an educational environment watching a screen

As the Arts and Wellbeing Coordinator for Sense, it was a real pleasure to be involved in ‘Music is a Vibration’ as it has changed my perspective of what inclusive music is, and knowing there was a positive effect emotionally, socially and physically on all the young people involved.

It gave me more of an appreciation of how traditional, yet simple techniques, such as sound travelling through ‘Cans on a String’ – where cans attached at either end with string are use to communicate – are so vital to exploring ideas. Or unsual approaches we took, such as ‘Sonic tennis’ where pockets of air were blasted using air cannons from a distance. And other unique approaches such as amplifying sounds created on thermal blankets and foil nets using bat locators.

Seeing the enjoyment in the young people during these games and activities was captivating, but it was also refreshing to know there was the educational musical element at the core of the process.

Showcasing art created by young people with complex communication needs

A young man runs his hands across a wooden interactive art piecewood. Next to him a woman watches.

In May this year, the final installations for ‘Music is a Vibration’ were ready to be unveiled to families and friends of the young people before being exhibited at Sense’s Touchbase Pears venue and mac Birmingham (Midlands Arts Centre).

The final outcome of the project resulted in six ‘Vibration Stations’, each station representing the work and collaboration of one young musician in the project. A station showcased a ‘Sonic signature or visual mark’ which was created by the young musician during introductions to the project. The musician would ‘hello’ to their peers and initial responses to the sounds created in those moments were recorded through microphones and adapted speakers. When you trace your fingers over the engraved visual sonic signatures made with electro-magnetic paint, visitors could hear the sound compositions created during the workshops.

Whilst the sounds played through the headphones, people could also feel the vibrations produced through a SubPac vest, which is a wearable or seated technology that vibrates with low frequencies fed into it. The intensity can be adjusted to desired levels when interacting with the engraved visual sonic signature.

A young man runs his hands across a wooden interactive art piece

The young people wanted their families to have at full level for the maximum sensory experience! Popping Candy is also available to eat for the added sensory stimulant as the young musicians ate this during certain workshops, allowing families to be involved in the creative process.

This was the first time families and friends had seen their final pieces, other than having an idea of workshop sessions through photos and feedback from support staff.

I noticed a real emotional connection being made during this unveiling, as it seemed the young musicians were so proud of the work that they had produced, they were all so eager to show how it all worked but also help other peers and their families through a collaborate showcasing each piece.

Find out more about Sense Arts and how Sense works with artists to create collaborative projects enabling and supporting people with complex communication needs.

Author: Sunney Sharma

Sunney Sharma is Arts and Wellbeing Manager at Sense.

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