From Sound Art to Soundwalk: Narrowing my PhD Focus

Throughout this first year as a PhD student my work has undergone many changes in direction and exploration. Having a creative practice PhD allows for this type of shift and change, which is a benefit when trying to contextualize or make sense of the work I am creating.

At first, my focus was on meditation music and how the listener interacts with it, but through months of research, I discovered that meditation is not something I can necessarily pursue for ethical reasons, as I do not have a clinician on my team. I decided it was best to take out meditation from my work/ research and focus on researching sounds in general, or soundscapes, or sound signals and how they may affect the listener’s responses through the mind and body. Here, I discovered a new term: sound affect theory.

“Sound Studies tells us that we should trust our ears as much as our eyes, justifying our trust in sound, and of the resonating body. Affect Theory goes further, saying that all senses play into a body that processes input through levels of response, experience, and anticipation.” – Maria P. Chaves Daza, Sounding Out

Sound has the ability to alter moods, feelings, or sensations of the listener, which is fascinating to think about. With this, I have started experimenting with different sounds and sound manipulations to see what works and doesn’t work with my style. Eventually, I want to fuse binaural beats to the soundscapes I create and document the listener’s response.

Before we get to that, I am still on the journey of discovering the path and focus on my PhD. My Annual Progress Review is coming soon, which has allowed for reflection of my work. Likewise, I had to submit documentation to my assessors that concisely described the project, the reason for the project, the goals and aims, etc. Also, situating myself with others working in the field of sound art, soundscapes, or soundwalks, is vital to contextualize my work. By finding where I fit within the community, I can find kinships whilst absorbing new terms and thoughts and more effectively understanding my work.

This project will be a creative investigation of soundwalks and their influence on the listeners’ mind or body responses. A soundwalk, as defined for this project, is sound signals in a form of a musical piece that encourage active participation from listeners. To engage with the immediate soundscape environment, listeners can allow for aesthetic, emotional, physical, etc. responses to take place. The project will consist of different pieces of music composed using various elements:  field recordings, loops, samples, etc.

Creation comes from many areas of my life, from cooking a meal to taking photos, from gardening to sewing. I practice creating daily through everyday events, much like most people do. How I see it, this is a form of being, as it is necessary to create in order to live day by day. Likewise, creativity is a form of communication, where I can go beyond myself for expression. Pursuing creative practice research with this PhD will give me the opportunity to be creative through music exploration, whilst continuing to expand my expression by living my everyday life. Also, the creative practice provides space for abstract ideas/ thinking, along with room for adaptation and considerations.

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