Author: coreopulence

Autumn 2022 Nature Photography

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. I love the crisp, fresh air and the changing color of the leaves. I found myself out in nature most days this October 2022, fully immersing myself in mindful meditation walks and soaking up the sights and sounds of my environment.

I think with the change of weather, the change of scenery, gives a new, fresh experience to walking in nature. The way I see it, as the seasons change, new opportunities for personal growth and artistic inspiration come. At the same time, I think my mental health has suffered the past few weeks and I needed nature more than ever to find a sense of calm in the mental storm. I don’t need to go into specifics, but I have found I felt overwhelmed and stressed with multiple areas of my life, some in my control and some not.

The highlight of this whole process is my photographs. I find peace and beauty with my nature photos and can say from experience that I have a sense of relaxation when viewing them. I think this is due to a few factors. When I reflect on my photographs I recall the walk I originally went on. I remember the process, the smells of trees, the sights, the wind, the time of day, the sound of walking on the grass, whether the sun was out. Using my imagination, I can go back to a time where I found relaxation during times of anxiety and stress. Likewise, my PhD research found that viewing nature photographs provides calming effects. I plan on exploring this concept more in my thesis.

Below are some photographs from my walks during October 2022.

My experience as a TEDx speaker (TEDx Wolverhampton)

I found the opportunity to do TEDx Wolverhampton through a post on Twitter.

Usually when I see an opportunity that I find interesting, I will do more research and make efforts to follow-up. I’ve found that I purposefully created an opportunity bubble on my Twitter account, where I only follow accounts relating to my academic or professional interests. In the past, my Twitter has provided the opportunity with FindAPhD.com, several conferences, podcast interviews, and publishing opportunities, all through networking.

This is not a promo for Twitter though. I think as long as you immerse yourself around like-minds in a way you feel comfortable, opportunities will be made available. After all, some of the TEDx speakers found the opportunity through friend suggestions and Google searching.

I realized the theme of TEDx Wolverhampton ‘Mirror, Signal, Maneuver’ involved self-reflection and change. With that, I decided to apply using the main theme from my PhD research: Nature Soundscapes and Relaxation. With my experience, nature sounds have brought peace during times of high anxiety. Even though nature is not a cure for stress, I think if we get in nature (either physically or through virtual means) we can see improvements in our wellbeing. I have changed for the better, becoming mentally and physically healthy after finding coping techniques that work for me. This is why I believe my PhD is an ‘idea worth spreading.’

Application Process

The application process was done online, simply answering questions and offering a draft idea of the key points of the speech. The important information to cover: make sure the topic relates to the theme of the talk.

Selection Process

The applications had a blind review to rule out bias. After a few weeks, the TEDx Wolverhampton team would be in touch. From what I understood, around 80 speakers applied and 12 were accepted.

Preparing for the TEDx Wolverhampton Event

  1. TEDx have rules and guidance to follow to ensure continuity with the #IdeasWorthSpreading. My fellow speakers and I were briefed on the requirements and expectations.
  2. Scripts were drafted by speakers and reviewed by the TEDx team. Once edited, the scripts would be approved a few weeks before the event to ensure time to memorize.
  3. Memorization was highly important. I researched ways to memorize a script and found a great method that suggested to break the speech into parts and themes.
  4. Practice was very important! I would practice each day, even whilst doing other tasks.
  5. I filmed myself doing the speech and also used voice recording to analyze my speech, hand movements, body language, and areas of improvement.
  6. We had stage time before the event! It was great doing rehearsals on the stage before the event, this helps ease my worry and fear.

Day of TEDx Wolverhampton

The day of TEDx Wolverhampton was packed. We met at 8am to do more practice and prep for the start time of 10:00am. With the TEDx team, I was able to relax and unwind in the green room and was provided my own dressing room. The team assisted with keeping the event organized and the speakers comfortable. The cupcakes were even home-baked by one of the lovely team members!

Outcome

I recommend the experience to anyone interested in sharing their life experience, research, or lessons learned. I found that this was a great opportunity to share my PhD research with a general audience. I would say it was a challenge to not sound too academic, but drafting the script helped refine the message without using academic jargon.

The speakers all had pieces of themselves in their scripts and it was truly an amazing moment watching each speaker connect with the audience in their own way.

I also want to end my blog with a huge thanks to the TEDx wlv team for being so helpful and supportive throughout the process.

The editing process of the TEDx video might take up to 6 months. Once my talk is posted online, I will be sure to share!

‘Oceanscape’ & Sonic Self-Care

During July 2021 I visited Clearwater, Florida for a girl’s trip. As I was there, I got to soak up the tropical vibes and enjoy all the relaxation the beach and palm trees have to offer. The beach has always been a getaway for me. A way to decompress and become worry-free. It is the combination of the feet in the sand, feeling grounded, and hearing the ocean sounds, that help put my mind at ease. 

In my PhD research, I will continue to explore why nature sounds, or being in nature, provides relaxation effects. For the purpose of this blog, I tend to remain unformal and use the blog as storage as my thoughts during the creation process.  

As I was in Clearwater, FL, I took photos of the sights and field recordings of the sounds. I only recently dug through my archive of images and sound to compose ‘Oceanscape’ (10:31 recording now on YouTube, Spotify, and Soundcloud). I wanted to use a water sound that was not rain. The reason being, I used rain in the past to make soundscapes and wanted to work with a different water sound. Likewise, I have experimented with water being poured, shower water, fountains, and I felt it was necessary to explore the sounds collected from the ocean to continue with the water experimentation.  

I have come to find in my research with ambience, field recordings, and sound art, that water is commonly used. One popular artist, Bill Viola, uses water through footage/ image. Some critics believe Viola’s work provokes a form of meditation or self-reflection. Viola goes to say about his own work:  

“Once you slow down time you move into a different world…We’re not part of this world anymore. You move into a mystical world, perhaps, or you have time for reflection. We give the gift of time to people, to stay in a different world.” 

I find this quote to be interesting, as my soundscapes are inspired from guided meditations. I generate my work to take the mind away from reality and to promote relaxation through meditative practices. In my most recent published journal in Sonic Scope, I describe how this is the concept of creating ‘imagined spaces.’ For example, ‘Oceanscape’ is a way for listeners to mentally esacape from their current reality and transport themselves to a different space. Through sights and sounds, ‘Oceanscape’ creates the image of an ocean in my mind and takes me to the memories of the relaxation I felt during my times spent at the beach. Though I aim for the listener to image any beach they like, the sound and image I provide are prompts to help the listener on their relaxation journey.  

I am not sure if I will include a deep dive of ‘Oceanscape’ in my thesis, as I am planning over the next 6 months to make more work, but for the sake of getting use to explaining my work, critiquing it, and trying to understand why I make the choices I make, I think a prompt will help review:  

  1. What artists inspire me? Who can relate? 
  1. What are other artists doing/ not doing?  
  1. How could I have made my soundscape different?  
  1. Why did I make these creative choices? 
  1. Consider length, duration, sounds and why I went in this direction 
  1. Does the soundscape let me feel relaxed? / do I like my work? Why or why not? 

In my mind, creating soundscapes is a process, but it is often a process I do not even know I am doing. This is where keeping a blog helps, so I can see some thought processes and use this information to write my thesis.  

During my research I stumbled upon a term called ‘sonic self-care,’ which means using sound as a form of self-care practice. “Self-care is taking steps to tend to your physical and emotional health needs to the best of your ability.” https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/  

Self-care focuses on social, mental, physical, and emotional aspects of life that may be causing anxiety or stress. Some examples include:  

  1. Moving the body  
  1. Writing emotions down  
  1. Getting outside  
  1. Drinking water  
  1. Calling loved ones  
  1. Sleeping well 

These practices, though may seem simple, provide a way for us to relieve stress. (https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/health-safety-wellness/counseling/wellness/self-care-and-stress-reduction/de-stress#:~:text=Good%20self%2Dcare%3A%20Taking%20care,%2C%20relaxation%2C%20and%20eating%20well.)  

With the ocean, “The sound of waves has also been proven to relax the mind. As waves come in, crash, and then recede again, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which slows down the brain and helps promote relaxation.” (https://commonseas.com/news/ten-reasons-the-sea-makes-you-feel-amazing#:~:text=Stress%2DRelieving%20Waves,de%2Dstimulating%20our%20brains%E2%80%9D.) Perhaps the ocean sounds can be included with ‘sonic self-care?’ If my thesis allows, I will look into this concept further.  

Madison Miller at TEDx Wolverhampton on Nature Sounds and Relaxation During Times of Crisis.

The news is out! I am delighted to announce I will be a Tedx speaker at @TEDxWolves (Twitter) on 1st Oct 2022. There is a great line up of speakers and I can’t wait to network and share my knowledge on improving mental health through nature sounds!

About TEDx Wolverhampton 2022

“Our theme for 2022 is “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” in recognition of the journey many of us find ourselves on as we emerge into a new world post COVID’.

Mirror, signal, manoeuvre used to be one of the first rules we hear when learning to drive (now MSPSL) and is synonymous with keeping yourself and those around you safe, which has been a key message over the past few years.

At TEDxWolverhampton 2022 we’re exploring ideas that help us reflect (Mirror) on the past few years, indicate (Signal) the changes and adaptations we have to make in response to the changes around us and, more importantly, help us successfully determine the way forward (Manoeuvre).” – TEDx Wolverhampton

To learn more, please visit: https://tedxwolverhampton.com/

What life and career experiences will inform your TEDx talk?

PhD researcher in Soundscapes at the University of Wolverhampton, currently in my 3rd year exploring how nature sounds and nature photography improve relaxation. As someone who suffers from anxiety, my practice-based research project with an autoethnographic method explores how, through the creation and listening process, I find relaxation as a way of coping with CPTSD and anxiety. Additionally, I am in the process of being published with Sonic Scope, I am communications officer for the Music and Mental Health Group, student rep for the Royal Musical Association, Leadership Award winner 2022 with Students Union (University of Wolverhampton).

How will your talk relate to our Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre theme?

The Covid-19 caused stress for many of us. Stress is a major health concern, leading sufferers to develop poor physical health, anxiety, and depression. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.”

Art during times of crisis is a topic I’ve explored during my latest art show at the University of Wolverhampton (March 2022). Though I suffer from anxiety and often experience stress, the Covid-19 crisis elevated my mental health concerns and to cope I would create imagined spaces using nature field recordings and nature photography from my self-meditation walks. Since most of us could not leave our homes, I generated soundscapes that allow listeners to take a mental break.

From the individual perspective, my research is autoethnographic, taking inspiration from my mental health journey. Throughout the years of testing coping mechanisms during therapy (CBT), I discovered meditation music and guided meditations, which significantly helped ease stress. My PhD journey started with a meditation focus and grew into a practice-based research project on nature recordings and nature photography.

The theme Mirror, Signal, Maneuver applies to using music as a tool to help cope during times of crisis. From a society standpoint, it is important to break the mental health stigma but also offer accessible ways of reducing stress. From an individual standpoint, it is important to reflect on triggers and find suitable coping skills that work best for you.

What are the talking points of your presentation?

Keywords: Soundscape, meditation, relaxation, stress, mental health, nature sound, nature photography, field recordings, creative practice, imagined spaces

F Minor: A brief look on how nature field recordings can change the emotion of sound  

The emotional power of music stands as multidisciplinary research, which includes philosopher, psychologists, neuroscientists, and musicologists. From these theoretical and practice-based views, the relationship between emotion and music is explored, often showcasing music as a form of emotional communication (The Emotional Power of Music). According to psychologist Nico Frijda, emotion is a way for us to deal with the world as well as offer us a way analyze and understand it.  

Though the main objective of my PhD research is to analyze how nature soundscapes can influence relaxation, my interpretation of the soundscapes could be entirely different to the listener. Take for instance my most recent work ‘Moonscape.’ Using a field recording of the wind from my balcony, I paired this with a F minor piano chord from BandLab that fades in and out throughout 10 minutes. The F minor chord is associated with “deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave” (Musical Key Characteristics). An example of this includes,

“Looking at Beethoven’s first piano sonata, written in F minor, we can find a particularly strong place for melancholy in the third movement, a minuet and trio. The left and right hand imitate each other, we have dramatic pauses, and a syncopated melody, all designed to throw the listener off by just a little bit” (F Minor Examples).

With these common sad, melancholy emotions F minor brings, I believe it is reasonable to assume listeners might take away a sense of eeriness, uncertainty, or sadness from listening to the ‘Moonscape’ piece. However, I also believe the added elements to ‘Moonscape’ transform the F minor into a sound communicating the emotions of relaxation, peace, or rest. The nature field recording of nighttime wind was added as the main background noise, lasting throughout the entire piece. This is the main, consistent sound, providing a grounding, stable place for the listener to leave and return to when the F minor fades in and out.

“The sound of wind is one of the most relaxing sounds in existence. This sound alone eases away stress and makes everything outside look more calm and quiet. The sound of wind is great for helping one to fall asleep and for covering background noises. Wind noise is a natural source of white noise.”

To generate your own wind sound and experience this for yourself, check out this wind generator:

 Wind Noise generator.

From my experience, F minor added to the wind field recording changes the emotion of the overall piece to one of calm and quiet, much like the stillness of a moonlit night. In my thesis I plan on exploring this topic in more detail.

References:

The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control. (2013). United Kingdom: OUP Oxford.

Watch Moonscape here:

Mentor Collective: Now offering support to USA student arts & humanities mentees

Once one door closes, another door opens.

I recently resigned from the committee roles in the Royal Musical Association and Music and Mental Health Group and am thrilled to announce a new adventure!

I am now a mentor with the Mentor Collective, offering mentorship sessions to USA undergraduate students focused on arts & humanities. I look forward to meeting my mentees and having discussions on academic success, work-school-life balance, career, and personal growth.

What is the Mentor Collective?

Trained alumni mentors provide students with unique guidance and insights into the industry they’re pursuing while introducing technical and soft skills helpful for their specific career trajectory.

Learn more here: https://www.mentorcollective.org/

What can I offer to mentees?

I recently received the Leadership Award (2022) from the University of Wolverhampton highlighting my ability to lead others to success through empathy, encouragement, and support.

With my extensive skills in professional and academic settings, I offer support and guidance to students interested in developing personally, academically, or in their career. My experience includes:

  1. Media & communications 5+ years
  2. Photography 10+ years
  3. Applying for grants / funding
  4. Living independently
  5. Work/life balance
  6. Time management
  7. Remote work / remote learning
  8. Committee work / non-profits
  9. Building societies / chair, secretary, treasurer
  10. Awards / achievements / goal setting
  11. CV / resume development
  12. Leadership skills
  13. Management skills
  14. Lecturing / teaching / training
  15. Publications
  16. Social media / blogs / mailers
  17. Higher education
  18. Applications (Masters, PhD, job)
  19. Thesis support

Please connect with me on LinkedIn to learn more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/madisonmiller44/

How do I become a mentee?

As of July 2022, I offer monthly sessions to students at Millersville University through the alumni program which can be accessed through the Mentor Collective.

If you are a student outside of that University, please contact me using the form below and we can discuss mentorship opportunities.

Core Opulence Podcast now LIVE on Spotify!

Interested in music and mental health? I am happy to say I’ve launched my PhD focused Core Opulence Podcast, where you can find relaxation soundscapes and discussions on mental health and more. Follow me on Spotify!

Here is the introduction to the Core Opulence Podcast:

Follow me on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6RUYcbDxla4FBtxgL9u4Bn?si=36d0b17fc30e4fe5

Or listen in on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdRtl84tdZF56Xo1a_wew3A

Free Download Goal Planner by Core Opulence

What is a goal planner?

A goal planner is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper! With my anxiety, I stay up late thinking and over-thinking, but I have learned it is best to write my thoughts down. Rather than storing thoughts in my mind and constantly running through them, writing them down allows me to externalize the issue at hand and manage my thoughts from the outside.

To support a healthy mind. I write my goals down each month and check back in with myself regularly to see if I am on track.

How to use a goal planner?

You can easily write down your wants, needs, desires, and goals without a goal planner. However, I think having a template as a prompt can encourage a clear, focused vision of your goals and how you can achieve them.

A goal can be anything from small to large, easy to difficult, which means some goals might take longer than other to achieve. This is all normal and to be expected so do not feel discouraged if you feel unmotivated or behind on your goal setting.

How to choose a goal:

My advice is to look at where you are now and prioritize which goals you want to focus on first. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Do I have a skill I want to develop or gain? Training? Career development? Hobby?
  2. Is there knowledge I want to pursue? Higher education?
  3. Are my relationships balanced? Do I have toxic relationships?
  4. Am I happy with myself? My mind, body, spirit?
  5. What behaviors do I have that are impacting me, or others around me, that I want to change?
  6. What stress am I experiencing at this time?

For example, some top priorities can include:

  1. Applying for a new job
  2. Building a savings account
  3. Having a consistent workout routine
  4. Improving sleep quality

What can you do TODAY to help achieve your goals?

Small steps every day add up. It is important to realize you are capable of achieving your goals and getting to the finish line, but it takes work and inner-strength. Ask yourself: What can I do to achieve my goal? In the case of looking for a job, perhaps making a CV/ resume would help, or in the case of improving sleep quality, you could do some research on ways to get to sleep at a decent hour.

You can be a great problem solver! Test out your ability and see what you can come up with. Make a path to get you from where you are at now to where you want to be.

What are your areas of focus?

This is a different, or more simplistic, way of viewing your goals. After reflecting on what you want to prioritize, discover what category your goals belong to. For example, if your goal is to to clean your bedroom the category would be ‘home.’

Other areas of focus may include but are not limited to:

  1. Myself
  2. Relationships / love
  3. Finance / income / wealth
  4. Career
  5. Creative
  6. Knowledge / Learning
  7. Travel
  8. Family
  9. Home

By breaking your goals down to smaller bits, you can sense your goals are easier to manage. I believe this helps me feel less overwhelmed with a task when I focus on one category at a time.

Words of affirmations and encouragement

Some of us have doubt and negative self-talk. This section is to remind you of your greatness! This is where you can reflect on your strengths and abilities so when you are feeling low you have a point of reference to bring you back to a positive headspace.

Some examples of affirmations include:

  1. I always work towards my goals and achieve them in my own time
  2. I let go of worry and stress
  3. I embrace change and look forward to where I am going
  4. I am focused on myself
  5. I believe my life is in my hands
  6. I expect to achieve all my goals
  7. I am successful
  8. I create my reality

Download Here:

Winner: ‘People’s Choice’ Doctoral Depictions Photo Competition 2022

The winners of the Doctoral Depictions Photo Competition 2022 were announced at Researchers’ Week Awards/Celebration Ceremony on Friday 24 June 2022.

I am happy to say I won People’s Choice for 2022! I want to thank everyone for taking the time to vote for me and support me throughout the PhD journey.

Photography is a key feature in my PhD research and creative practice in soundscapes. I look forward to sharing more photos in the future.

To learn more about this award, please visit my previous blog:

or visit the University of Wolverhampton website: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/research/research-news-and-events/annual-research-conference/arc-2022/doctoral-depictions-photo-competition-2022/

Exploring Song Bowls and Sound

It is no secret on my blog that I started meditating in 2015 to combat my migraines and anxiety. With that, I entered a mental space where I wanted to try different meditation techniques to see which worked best for me.

Sound became critical to my meditation practices. I migrated towards nature and ambient sounds, as I found these sounds to be most relaxing. However, others find moving the body through yoga or dance, or sitting in silence, as valuable forms of meditation. Through my experience, I encourage anyone looking to meditate to try various styles to find what best fits them.

I have tried light baths, sound baths, group meditation, yoga, and more to come to the conclusion that sound impacts me most.

I came across Tibetan singing bowls early on in my meditation journey and own one bowl of my own. I used tutorials online to learn how to play and, with my Masters research, learned the long history of the bowl.

On the spiritual side, I resonate with the concepts of vibration and frequency offering healing properties, much like binaural beats (to learn more please visit my previous blog: https://coreopulencemusic.com/2022/06/23/a-look-into-binaural-beats-aesthetics-vs-function/). With that, I recently completed a song bowl class that showcased how to heal others through special techniques of playing the bowls.

In the future I hope to cultivate this skill and offer free sessions for song baths so others can experience this form of meditation.

(Photos from the song bowl class 18th June 2022).

A Look into Binaural Beats: Aesthetics vs Function

(Submitted 18th May 2018, By Madison Miller – Bournemouth University, MA Media & Communications)

Introduction

Linguistic theories suggest humans have an innate need to communicate, which categorizes language as an instinctual characteristic (Pinker 2015). From this notion, some musicologists theorize music as a universal language, creating a synthesis between the human instinct to communicate and the meaning behind communication. This fusion proposes that music emulates language, specifically when comparing elements like: character symbols in language vs note symbols in music, musical sound systems vs language sound systems, rhythm in music vs rhythm in speech, melody in music vs melody in speech, etc (Patel 2010). This means that music has influence, much like language, that generates symbolic understanding and meaningful feeling. Likewise, theories suggest language can transcend the sciences, or the tangible, to embody language arts (poems, literature, etc.), or intangible. Music operates in this same manner, going from functional aspects to ambiguity, depending on the music genre, composure, etc (Pople 2006). In particular, binaural beats, which is music that aids in meditation, seems to embody the functional and aesthetic properties, depending on the composition. Firstly, understanding binaural beats and their effects on human consciousness must be explored in order to gain awareness of binaural beats and the relation to meditation. Next, the dichotomy of function vs aesthetic resting in binaural beats and their digitally created sound will highlight the functional elements of music. Afterwards, binaural beats and instrumentation will explore function vs aesthetic, concluding that binaural beats have an aesthetic appeal. Finally, this will bring the conclusion that binaural beats embody functional and aesthetic elements, but the amount of each will vary depending on the composition.

Understanding Binaural Beats and their Effects on Human Consciousness

Binaural beats, or two-tone beats, are an audio stimulus composing of two different tones. Discovered in 1893 by H.W. Dove, a German experimenter, binaural beats impact the listener through the variations between hertz (Leeds 2010). This is done through playing two tones, each at a different frequency. In order for the tones to have an impact on the listener, they are generated to play notes in the average human hearing range of 20-20,000Hz and are distributed to one tone per ear (Woodward 2016). While listening to binaural beats, it is often advised for listeners to wear headphones to obtain the best results. During the listening process the superior olivary nucleus, which rests in brain stem and functions by integrating auditory input, responds by linking the two tones together to create a perceived third beat (Porter 2008).

“The difference between the two frequencies must be small (below about 30 Hz) for the effect to occur; otherwise, the two tones will be heard separately and no beat will be perceived” (Lind-Kyle 2009, p. 254).

Here, the tones ebb and flow, which allows for the frequency waves to mesh in and out. Simultaneously, the third beat appears and disappears during the flow.  This is known as a phase difference, which is brought on by the two carrier tones. The sensation of “hearing” the third beat, brought on by the frequency unification, generates a perceived universal hertz for the two tones. Additionally, the perception of isochoric tones, or tones that are rapidly turned on and off, takes place as the third beat replaces the sound of the two meshing frequencies (Woodward 2016).

            A hertz is a unit of frequency that indicates the cycle per second of electromagnetic waves. Hertz are not only found in music, but in the human brain as well.  The brain’s hertz, or brainwave patterns, change depending on the brain’s state of consciousness (Mattulich 2008).  For instance, during the awake consciousness, gamma waves, which typically rest in 40Hz, provide high mental activity, problem solving, and fear awareness.  Likewise, beta waves, which range from 16Hz to 39Hz, are during the awake state but offer active, busy, anxious thinking, paranoia, and cognition. Next, the alpha waves, which rest from 8Hz to 13Hz, is the pre-sleep phase. Here, the brain is relaxed, providing sleep drowsiness, REM sleep, and dreams. Theta waves, which range from 4Hz to 7Hz, are deep meditation, deep relaxation, and sleep waves. Similarly, delta waves, which are less than 4Hz, give deep, dreamless sleep and a loss of body awareness. Finally, the mu waves, which range from 7.5Hz to 12.5Hz provide sensorimotor awareness, which overlap with the alpha wave state (Woodward 2016).

            However, the scale of hertz is vast and can adjust to go up or down. In the case of binaural beats, not all binaural beats rest in low hertz. Instead, the most common type of binaural beat is 432Hz (Van Heerden 2016). 432Hz in the binaural beat community is referred to as the Sacred Sound. The Sacred Sound, in theory, allows human consciousness to align with Earth’s frequencies, prompting the listener to feel balanced, centered, or grounded (O’Callaghan 2016). To explain, in 1952 German physicist Winfried Otto Schumann discovered the Schumann Resonance, which are global electromagnetic resonances that rest from Earth’s cavity to the ionsphere (Godbe 2018). This frequency is low, ranging from 7.88Hz to 8Hz. Using 8Hz as a starting point and moving up 5 octaves using Pythagorean mathematics, a system of calculation, where there is “a ‘mean’ between two terms in a given ratio” (Crock 1964, p. 325) providing harmony. The A note frequency of 8Hz in the Schumann Resonance becomes 432Hz (O’Callaghan 2016) using Pythagorean mathematics, letting the rest of the notes in the scale follow suit and make up the Solfeggio Scale. The Solfeggio Scale has ancient roots and can be found in modern healing practices involving binaural beats (Mattson 2016) on consciousness. This movement up the scale of perfect fifths, a 3:2 frequency ratio derived from a pair of pitches, was inspired by Pythagorean mathematics or Pythagorean tuning, where the Circle of Fifths, a relationship between 12 notes, depicts the Chromatic Scale. To help put this into perspective, the Chromatic Scale is heard when playing every note on the piano (Barbour 1933). These notes remain pleasant on the ear because the frequencies are distant enough to create harmony when played in a piece of music. Knowing this process of the 3:2 ratio, Pythagorean mathematics shows that the Schumann Resonance can go from 8Hz to 432Hz. At the same time, 8hz embodies the theta/ alpha range which is carried into the 432Hz A note. In music terms, this process is called Pythagorean turning, where 432Hz remains as an A octave through the base 8Hz.

Despite Pythagorean mathematics and the sacred notion of 432Hz, the Western standard of music, initiated by the International Organization for Standards in 1955, has A tuned to 440Hz. This standard was established as a way to bring consistency to orchestral music performances in different regions (Cornelius and Natvig 2016). Rather than the same piece of music tuned higher or lower, the 440Hz standard provided a compromise between various tuning systems worldwide. Nowadays, the majority of contemporary music is recorded as 440Hz due to this standard.

Yet, the history behind 432Hz is broad, where evidence reveals knowledge of 432Hz in ancient Greece, Egypt and Tibet, having their musical instruments tuned to 432Hz. For instance, Tibetan singing bowls came into existence between 560-480 B.C. Tibetan singing bowls, made from a bronze alloy and various other metals, are rubbed or struck with a wooden stick, creating layers of rich overtones (Shrestha 2009). These overtones are heard binaurally, which generates a perceived third frequency that aids in meditation. To this day, binaural beats are used during meditation, ranging from digitally created binaural beats to gong baths. Theories around binaural beats suggest a listener can change consciousness, or adjust brain activity, depending on what hertz are present (Woodward 2016). This means binaural beats can interact with brainwave patterns of neural oscillation, adjusting the listener’s brainwaves to reflect the input hertz of the binaural beat.

To explore the meditation advantages of binaural beats, Electroencephalograms (EEGs) were used to measure and monitor brainwave patterns. Here, EEGs provided further insight into changing brainwave patterns while a listener is exposed to binaural beats. Research with EEGs and binaural beats concludes “the sensory-stimulus known as binaural beating can be effective in inducing altered states of consciousness” (Atwater 1998) where delta and theta ranges in binaural beats can aid in sleeping (Heiw 1995), while alpha and beta binaural beats offer increased alertness, concentration (Monroe 1985) and higher memory retention (Kennerly 1994). To put this into perspective, Atwater (1998) explains, “if the audio stimulus is 24 Hz, the resulting measured EEG will show a 24 Hz frequency-following response using appropriate time-domain averaging protocols.” The act of brainwave patterns adjusting to fit with binaural beats is referred to as frequency following response (Smith et al 1975). Here, EEG research concludes that binaural beats make an impact on the listener’s brainwaves and consciousness through exposed frequencies. For example, if binaural beats are set to 300Hz and 280Hz tones, the brain will process and absorb the perceived third beat, which is the 10Hz tone. 10Hz is a very low frequency soundwave, which is below the human hearing range, but research suggests you actually do not need to hear the soundwave for your brain to be effected by it (Kershaw and Wade 2012). The 10Hz tone brings the listener into the alpha state, changing consciousness to a pre-sleep state.

Digitally Created Binaural Beats and their Unpleasant Sound

It is important to note that binaural beats come in various forms, offering different meditation benefits to the listener. At the same time, binaural beats curators embrace the diversity by enhancing the listening experience through musical overlays (Lind-Kyle 2009). If the listener seeks to meditate to calming wind chimes, flutes, birds chirping, ocean waves, etc., while wanting the perks of binaural beats, it is possible. Notably, this is the preferred method of listening to binaural beats, from beginner to seasoned meditators. Here, a distinction between digitally created binaural beats and instrumentation overlays on binaural beats must be made, for digital binaural beats sound different compared to the superimposed instrumentation.

Focusing on digitally created binaural beats, these are the base, authentic tones, that do not offer any elements of melody, instrumentation, rhythm, texture, or harmony. To put into perspective, digitally created binaural beats are like a car horn, there isn’t much to the sound, which leaves the sound obnoxious on the ear (Bever 2018). The two tone frequencies of the binaural beats mesh in and out to create the perceived third beat, all of which is unpleasant. Unlike the Tibetan bowl or the gongs, digitally created binaural beats have frequencies that are similar in range. This similarity in frequencies causes the perceived third beat to sound off, having an obnoxious sound that is offensive to the ear. To explain, imagine a beginner guitarist learning to play chords together. When the guitarist’s finger slips and holds down the wrong note, the listener notices the mistake through the unflattering sound of the chord. Later, this same guitarist practices and becomes advanced. While strumming, the guitarist is able to move between the C chord and the G chord without fuss. The C chord and the G chord fit well together and the listener hears the improvement in the guitarists skills. This is due to the C and G chords following the sequence of the perfect fifth. Since the frequencies of C and G are separated and different, when played together there is a sense of harmony. To explain, harmonics shows the C as 3:2 of G, where these notes line up every 3rd harmonic of C and 2nd harmonic of G (Mathieu 1997). Since these notes are meant to line up through harmonics and perfect fifth, when played together they have a harmonious sound. To elaborate, the C chord in Western music contains the note G, which allows for a consistent sound (Cornelius and Natvig 2016). Going back to the example used earlier to generate a 10Hz alpha third beat, the two primary tones are 300Hz and 280Hz, which is too close together in soundwaves to have a pleasant appeal. This means binaural beats remain unusual with their use of similar frequencies, as compared to the perfect fifth which allows for more than 30Hz between notes. This leaves digitally created binaural beats to have an unsophisticated sound, much like the beginner guitar player strumming the wrong notes in a chord. It almost sounds as if the wrong notes are played and generate a third unwanted note.

The unpleasant sounds of binaural beats can be related to the tritone known as Diabolus in musica, or the devil in music. This term came out of the medieval era, where clergymen were unsatisfied with the tritone’s unstable intervals. The tritone was banned in church music, only allowing perfect fourths and perfect fifths. Due to the unsettling sound of the Diabolus in musica, clergymen thought there was something evil lurking in the music. This lead many to believe that Satan rests in the sound as an attempt to corrupt the Trinity (Walker and Don 2013). In recent history, the sinister sound of the Diabolus in musica has lost the fear it once induced. Now, this sound is tied to creating a chilling or foreboding atmosphere and is commonly used in rock or metal music. For instance, the opening chords to ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix are tritones, where the song starts with a creepy or spooky atmosphere to reflect Hendrix’s inspiration from a nightmare he had involving getting lost in a cloud of purple haze (Moskowitz 2010).

Digital Binaural Beats: Aesthetic vs Function  

 Nevertheless, digital binaural beats and their off-putting sound are tolerated in order for the listener to achieve meditation effects.  In practical terms, digital binaural beats innately lack musical qualities that allow for a positive experience with the human senses. This leads to the sounds of the two frequencies and the third perceived beat to be hard on the ear, but necessary soundwaves in order to aid in entering a deep state of meditation. However, the aesthetics of music embodies all sound, whether subjectively good or bad to the ear. Aesthetic, through Clive Bell’s (1958) definition, suggests that aesthetic rests with the essence of a thing. This means that music is an art that holds a common property. The significant form, which is the common property of art, rests in means of feeling rather than description. However, when listening to digitally created binaural beats, there is no feeling evoked other than the common dislike for the sound, along with the brainwave copying of soundwaves. The listener does not have an artistic, emotional experience, whether profound or minute. Digitally generated binaural beats do not elicit raw feelings of joy, happiness, sadness, love, hate, anger, warmth, comfort, etc., Instead, they make the listener want to turn off the music, since it is very unpleasing to hear. The listener prevails through the off-putting music solely to gain the effects of binaural beats on brainwaves. From this, the aesthetic, or the essence of digitally created binaural beats would be the universal agreement that the sound, in itself, is unpleasant. Langer (1957) argues that aesthetics does not equal beautiful. Aesthetics can embody the unpleasantness in art. This allows for the conclusion that the raw state of digitally created binaural beats only offers the aesthetic quality of distaste.

Though the sound is bad, what remains true in the binaural beat process is that listeners choose to listen to binaural beats in order to improve themselves with meditation. Binaural beats are believed to come with a variety of healing benefits associated with the hertz they carry. Some benefits include: anxiety relief, stress reduction, full-body relaxation, study aid, memory aid, concentration aid, migraine relief (Woodward 2016), etc. Here, the needs of the listener are in a flux, which creates a need for the listener’s brainwaves to connect to different binaural beat frequencies (in order to change states of consciousness). One tactic used to help alter states involves focusing on the present moment. This means digital binaural beats have a fluidity of meaning, which allows the listener to remain in the present moment.

“human consciousness engages in a continuous process of deciding and selecting where to spend attention. This is the most obvious reason why the acts of listening… are ‘thought-full’” (Elliot 1995, p.79).

The two tones ripple in and out, which creates the third perceived beat. This process keeps the listener engaged, focusing on the waves of sound rather than wandering thoughts (such as: past experiences, plans, work, relationships, etc.). To compare digital binaural beats to other meditation techniques, listening to this form of music is similar to focusing on breathing. Breathing exercises elicit mindfulness or ‘thought-full-ness’ because the meditator is placing awareness on what is happening in the ‘now.’ These methods of music and breathing aiding in mediation have been passed down from as long as the earliest written documentation of meditation in 1500 BCE from hindi traditions (Stanton et al. 2012). 

            Since digital binaural beats are used for meditation purposes, this reflects a functionalist approach where the symbolic function of binaural beats preps the meditator to meditate. To explain, functional music goes hand in hand with the absolutist movement. The absolutist music movement reflects the idea of music being used for a specific purpose (Bonds 2014). Mozart was well known for his functional music pieces, for he created music to go along with dinner or entertainment. Here, music exists for music’s sake. The early 19th century’s influence with absolute music brought forth other composers, such as: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Not only did these composers help create an understanding of absolute music during the Romantic era, but the functional concept continues in Western music today (Bonds 2014). To help aid in this view, imagine a piece of music with lyrics. Lyrics often tell a story of a person or subject. Having these vocals creates a theme or embodies a subject. This would classify the music as Program music, or representation music. If absolute music decided to use the human voice, it would be used in a different way (Bonds 2014). In the functional state of music, the voice is used as an instrument without creating lyrics that would highlight a subject. This means that the voice in the functional music piece would be ambiguous sounds not relevant to a storyline. For instance, the Halo (videogame series) original soundtrack has this type of music on the videogames main menu screen. The sound of male voices (resembling monk chants) is used in an ambiguous way, which does not allow for any type of true lyric or language to be heard. The male tone instrumentation stands as a functional piece to pair with the videogame, rather than exist on its own with a storyline. However, after the players of this game become aware of the music, the music then acts as a signpost for the game, prepping the players to play. Likewise, digital binaural beats remain a signpost for meditation, which is another functional element. This signpost turns into ritual, where the meditator creates a routine in order to enter meditation. Other rituals that involve music act in this same way. For instance, Native American music goes hand in hand with ceremonies and rituals. The Sioux Grass Dance, or man’s pow wow dancing, is paired with music to function as a signpost for stomping on grass to bless the ground (Densmore 2001). Much like the sign of the Native American tribal music, binaural beats prep the listener to take action. The action with digitally created binaural beats is to obtain a relaxed state. In this way, binaural beats are much like a traffic light:

“It is something X (a color) that stands for something else, Y (a traffic symbol)… [where the]… human species has come to be regulated by [a] ….’force of history,’ that is, by accumulating meanings that previous generations have captured, preserved, and passed on in forms of signs” (Danesi 2015, p. 4).

Much like a traffic light tells a driver to slow down, go, or stop, binaural beat semiotics, or the sign (Dansedi 2015), conjoins with the functional aspect of digital binaural beats as a signpost allowing entrance to a relaxed state of consciousness.

            Science is tangible and relates to the functional elements of digitally created binaural beats through EEG research. As stated previously, EEG research has concluded that binaural beats do effect brainwave activity through the listener’s exposure. With that, the brainwaves take on a mirroring where they reflect the sound frequencies of the binaural beats (Smith et al 1975. At this point the tangible elements, like the EEG research, outweighs the aesthetics aspects. Binaural beats lack the artistic, emotional, or creative flair that draws a listener in. Though the sound is unpleasant, which is an aesthetic quality, the signposting, fluidity of meaning, and the research on the effects of binaural beats on consciousness elevates the functional aspects. To elaborate, it is impossible for absolute music to have “an aesthetic of absolute zero” (Chua 2006, p. 249); yet, binaural beats remain absolute for they create synthesis between the listener and the activity of meditation. This means that absolutist music, like binaural beats, has meaning in the musical process (Meyer 1956), like the ritual, semiotics, brainwave effects, etc.

Binaural Beats with Additional Instrumentation: Aesthetic vs Function

Digitally created binaural beats are the base-form of binaural beats with instrumentation. This means that the binaural beats lay within instrumented music and go almost unrecognized by the listener. Starting from a state of absolutism, where the music is innate in function (Popp 2014), instrumentation takes binaural beats to an artful stage and becomes the preferred music meditators listen to. The ‘why’ behind this preferences rests in the aesthetic qualities the instrumentation brings. In the case of binaural beats with instrumentation, the qualities elicit aesthetics, while also holding true to the base form functional aspects. Perhaps the line between aesthetic and function remains elusive, which is why binaural beats, depending on the version, embodies one more so than the other.

Aesthetics, coined in the 18th century, involves an object, attitude, value, and an experience, featuring phenomelogical (science) and representational (abstract) context. However, according to Kant, aesthetics is a pleasure, which does not exactly indicate self-interest, but remains a relation to desire. The nature of classifying art as beautiful, or in this case instrumented binaural beats, is disinterested by virtue of being “merely contemplative” (Kant  2000, p. 95) desire. This inner world of thought, the contemplation, comes from the relationship between art and the human senses, where the disinterested state remains subjective from judgements drawn on experiences (Kant 2000). Perhaps this is a form of music identity where one finds a connection or knowledge with their inner-self through contemplation and the music experience.

 Much like Kant’s attempt at reconciliation between the self and other, philosophy has aimed to answer other questions on dichotomy, such as: how can one tie self back with self? Through meditation practices, St. Augustine writes, “return into yourself. Truth dwells in the inner man” (Smith 2003, p. 252). Likewise, Cartesian philosophy emulates the popular Descartes saying, “know thyself” (Smith 2003, p. 252).  This means that universal knowledge can be obtained through insight, which ultimately connects the self with their inner world and their outer world. Through binaural beats instrumentation, the listener has a disinterested experience which allows for reflection. In turn, the music creates an identity of understanding, or connection between self, inner-self, and other.

Another way to view aesthetics is through the Greek interpretation, ‘I perceive, I sense’ (Dorai and Vankatesh 2002). Unlike digitally created binaural beats that rest on their own frequencies, the instrumentation of binaural beats creates an array of musical sound, which allows for the listener to have a full display of musical experiences through sense, or experience, by incorporating elements like: melody, rhythm, harmony, instrumentation, and texture. Since the instrumentation of binaural beats is a genre of music, the music varies and can either embody all or some of these musical elements. Some instrumentation laid over the binaural beats includes: sung lyrics, flutes, ocean sounds, birds chirping, digitally created sounds, violins, etc. Since the listener has a large option of choice, they can decide which binaural beats instrumentation resonates the most in order to enjoy the sound, as well as benefits, of meditation. The ear is stimulated and takes the listener on a journey of self-discovery, relaxation, and meditation, which is a full body experience. Having said this, the elements that embody instrumentation allow for the user to have a unique, sense filled, experience that elevates their meditation practices.

Conclusion

In summary, music is a vast area to explore, allowing for communication and meaning to evoke functional and aesthetic qualities. Specifically, when listening to binaural beats, the listener can transcend into different states of consciousness, where the frequency of the soundwave and the brainwave align into delta, theta, mu, alpha or beta waves (Smith et al 1975). This is similar to Tibetan bowls, where the frequency of 432Hz provides meditators with alignment to a meditative state (Shrestha 2009). Unlike Tibetan bowls, on their own binaural beats sound awful. This is due to the two-tone frequencies being closely related, weaving in and out to create a third perceived unflattering beat (Lynd-Kyle 2009). In turn, this pulsating remains a functional element where the listener stays alert in the present moment, for binaural beats on their own lack most aesthetic qualities other than a distaste of sound. However, when binaural beats have laid over instrumentation, the sound becomes the preferred way to gain meditation benefits, for the binaural beats rest in the background and are masked by the instrumentation. This is where the senses are stimulated, allowing for the listener to catch feelings through the varied uses of melody, rhythm, etc. From here, the user has a connection with their inner self and is able to reconcile themselves with the world, which not only gives a brainwave change (functional) but an awakening of self-awareness (aesthetic).

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Bever, L. 2018. Why Car Horns, Planes and Sirens Might be Bad for your Heart. Washington Post [online]. 06 February 2018. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/02/06/why-car-horns-and-other-common-loud-noises-may-be-bad-for-your-heart/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a86c3e1921e9 [Accessed 3 May 2018].

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Cornelius, S. and Natvig, M. 2016. Music: A Social Experience [online]. Routledge.

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Danesi, M. 2004. Messages, Signs and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and Communication [online]. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Densmore, F. 2001. Teton Sioux Music and Culture [online] University of Nebraska Press.

Dorai, C. and Vankatesh, S. 2002. Media Computing: Computational Media Aesthetics [online]. Springer.

Godbe, J. 2018. Stillpoint: the Geometry of Consciousness [online]. James Ross Godbe

Hiew, C. C. 1995. Hemi-Sync into creativity. Hemi-Sync Journal, 8(1), 3-5.

Kant, I. 2000. Critique of the Power of Judgment (trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews) [online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 Kennerly, R. C. 1994. An Emperical Investigation into the Effects of Beta Frequency Binaural Beat Audio Signals on Four Measures of Human Memory [online]. Wester Georgie College, Carrolton, Georgia. Dept. of Psychology.

Kershaw, C. and Wade, W. 2012. Brain Change Therapy: Clinical Interventions for Self-Transformation [online]. W. W. Norton & Company.

Langer, S. 1957. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite and Art [online]. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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Mattulick, L. 2008. Journey to Awareness and Beyond: With Modern Technology and Ancient Wisdom [online]. Xlibris.

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Moskowitz, D. 2013. The Words and Music of Jimi Hendrix [online]. ABC-CLIO.

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Nature Photography: Photo Competition

The University of Wolverhampton Researchers Week takes place 20th – 24th June 2022. I entered the photo competition to reflect my PhD work and would love your vote! Votes are open to the public and can be made here:  https://surveyhero.com/c/yn4c3gch

The Annual Research Conference (ARC) takes place on 20 June 2022 and kicks off Researchers’ Week (20 – 24 June 2022).

Researchers’ Week aims to provide researchers with the opportunity to develop their research skills and knowledge development, as well as their networks with other researchers and their community of practice. 

This year’s theme is ‘Inclusivity in Research’ and we will be linking up with the University’s Inclusivity Conference.

Doctoral Depictions Photo Competition 2022

As part of Researcher’s Week and ARC2022, Doctoral Depictions is another way in which we can share the breadth and quality of research being undertaken by research students and is also an opportunity for students studying at a distance to take part in the conference activities.

Our Research Students are asked to submit a photograph, title and description that represents their research. Images can be edited and a range of effects can be added but it must be their own work. The image can represent the specifics of the research project, the research journey, or the approach to undertaking research, etc..

Winner: The Ayokunle Falana Award for Leadership 2022

About the Awards

The Students Union Awards 2022 was hosted by the University of Wolverhampton Students Union 26th May 2022 at the Molineux.

The 11th annual awards ceremony had 19 awards to be awarded.

“This is the opportunity for students to show recognition and celebrate the achievements of University academic and non-academic staff, SU Staff and students who have helped make your life at University better.” – Students Union (University of Wolverhampton).


The Ayokunle Falana Award for Leadership Criteria:

  • Brings people together.
  • Motivates and inspires others to aim high and achieve (academically and non-academically)
  • Demonstrates exemplar behaviour and leads by example.
  • Nurtures talent.
  • Is courageous and stands up for others.

Nomination:

“Madison has put her heart and soul into creating and running the Doctoral Students’ Society for two years. She has created all our social media content from scratch, she manages all our event bookings and supervises the majority of our hang out sessions, even when she is super busy with all her own work as well. Madison continuously adapts the Society events to whatever the students need it to be; her passion is always to make everyone feel at home and to make sure that they know they have supportive friends here at the University. Her commitment and her dedication kept the DSS going all through the pandemic, and we have made lifelong friends because of her tenacity and her spirit. My student experience has been 100% improved by her.” – Anonymous

And the winner is….

Madison Miller

“Often I do work behind the scenes, making plans, promoting events, bringing people together. It’s a good feeling to know that not only is this effort seen and appreciated, but it has made a difference. I want to thank those students that went above and beyond for nominating me for this award and I look forward to building our friendships together.” – Madison Miller

To view previous winners visit: https://www.wolvesunion.org/awards/winners/

Winner: West Midlands Mental Health Star Awards 2022

The West Midlands Mental Health Star Awards 2022, hosted by ITV’s The Chase, the Sinner Man, Paul Sinha, was LIVE 25 May 2022.

Music and Mental Health Group was shortlisted for the Collaboration Award 2022, to recognise individuals and organisations who have come together in a new way during the pandemic to support the mental health and wellbeing of people.

The shortlisted nominees for this award are:
Living Well UK
Noah’s Star/Sociability Care C.I.C.
Music and Mental Health Group
Coventry City of Culture Trust – Reform the Norm

And the winner is…

Music and Mental Health Group

Engaging with a sector uniquely affected by lockdown periods and less supported than many other sectors to make the most of the therapeutic value of music was key to the group winning this award.
Michelle Assay and Madison Miller attended the virtual event to accept the award on behalf of the committee.

Learn more about the West Midlands Mental Health Awards here.



“‘I want to thank Michelle and our other committee members for teaming up and making music and mental health group become a reality. Mental health is a growing crisis in the UK and I am thankful to our team for creating a space for music professionals and researchers where resources, ideas, and stories can be shared.” – Madison Miller

Core Opulence Now on Spotify & SoundCloud

Spotify:https://open.spotify.com/show/6RUYcbDxla4FBtxgL9u4Bn?si=4ad3f6549f70436f

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/coreopulence

Announcement:

I am happy to announce Core Opulence is now available on Sportify and SoundCloud.

Core Opulence is a PhD music project that focuses on nature sounds and soundscapes. With my PhD research, I focus on YouTube as my primary source of soundscape sharing. This is due to a familiarity with this platform and my own experiences listening to and participating in YouTube guided meditations, ambient music, and other soundscapes. However, I understand offering soundscapes only on YouTube limits my listeners, and I am thrilled to be branching out to other platforms to help boost accessibility.

What to expect?

Spotify and SoundCloud will have condensed versions of the my nature soundscapes. This is a practical choice as I learn more about these platforms and might change in the future. I will also upload the same nature photography associated with my soundscapes that apply to the full-version YouTube video.

For example, the Rainy Stream Soundscape, in video format, is paired with a dark photo of leaves and water droplets with a duration of 2 hours 40 minutes on YouTube. For Spotify and SoundCloud, the same Rainy Stream Soundscape audio is cut down to 10 minutes, in MP3 format, and paired with the same photography as the album cover.

Rainy Stream Soundscape on SoundCloud:

Rainy Stream Soundscape on YouTube:

Rainy Stream Soundscape on Spotify:

Core Opulence Now on Eventbrite

We are thrilled to announce a new adventure. Core Opulence is now on Eventbrite, where online and in-person events will take place starting Summer 2022.

Core Opulence Music is a PhD project inspired by Doctoral student Madison Miller. The purpose of the project is to explore music through soundscapes, field recordings, soundwalks, nature sounds, etc. and document how others react to the music experience. Core Opulence aims to bring meditation music and meditation retreats to online spaces if you cannot attend in-person events.

Core Opulence explores the power of soundscapes through meditation and relaxation. Join in-person or online events for your own meditative experience listening to nature field recordings and ambience.

Follow our Eventbrite page to stay up-to-date: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/core-opulence-47101789583

Immersive Soundscape Exhibit May 2022

Join Madison Miller, PhD researcher in soundscapes, for an immersive soundscape experience 18th May 2022 at the University of Wolverhampton Walsall Performance Hub.

Miller will present work which combines nature sounds and nature photography collected during her self meditation walks. This mixed media approach is part of her PhD research where she looks at how sounds paired with photography may inspire relaxation.

What to expect:

Miller’s work will be available to view at Walsall’s performing arts centre in room WH124. The space will be transformed into a dark room with surround sound speakers, TV screen for the visuals, and cushions for you to sit.

Symposium discussion:

At 1:30pm in the Theatre Miller will discuss the creative process and give an overview of her PhD research. She will also take questions about her project.

Can’t make the art show?

If you are looking to experience Miller’s soundscapes, you can visit her YouTube channel, Core Opulence: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdRtl84tdZF56Xo1a_wew3A

Event details:

This event is hosted by the University of Wolverhampton, FABSS.

Location: WH The Performance Hub, Gorway Rd, Walsall WS1 3BD

The Uses of Literature: The Arts, Culture and Wellbeing in Times of Crisis (Art Exhibit)

What can the arts and literature do in the face of enormous catastrophe? Help us celebrate the vital necessity of art!


Date and time

Wed, 30 March 2022

16:30 – 18:30 BST

Location

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Lichfield Street

Wolverhampton

WV1 1DU

About this event

We are currently living through what feels like an unending series of international crises that are having a major impact on individuals and societies across the globe: a pandemic, war, and climate change are posing pressing questions about the future of an already precarious planet earth. What can the arts and literature do in the face of enormous catastrophe? Research shows that reading, writing, and other creative engagement can benefit wellbeing: it can relieve stress, anxiety and depression and forge a stronger community, for instance. What other effects can arts and literature have besides offering solace and critical perspectives? How can fiction help to counter fake news? How can it ameliorate trauma?

The Centre for Transnational and Transcultural Research invites you to this literary salon that brings together students and staff from the Humanities and beyond with the public to ask questions about the role of literature, culture and the arts in society – especially at a time of crises. You’ll be able to enjoy performances of literary work and engage in debates about the role of culture in our world – but most of all celebrate the vital necessity of art.

Performances and panel discussions with:

Max Berghege

Dr Daisy Black

Dr Lisa Blower

Dr Aidan Byrne

Charlotte Dunn

Dr R. M. Francis

Professor Sebastian Groes

Madison Miller

Ifemu Omari

Nneoma Otuegbe

Daniel Wiles

Free Registration on Eventbrite

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-uses-of-literature-the-arts-culture-and-wellbeing-in-times-of-crisis-tickets-294486335557?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

Constructing a Soundscape with Self-Meditation Walks

My History of Self-Meditation with Nature Walks

When I lived in the USA, I was undiagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, and C-PTSD. Leaving my mental health undiagnosed and untreated led to ordinary or day-to-day tasks, like going to work, extremely difficult. My life was impacted in various aspects including, lack of self-care, poor sleep patterns, poor ability to maintain healthy relationships, experiencing little pleasure or happiness, and dreading going to work or university. With all this chaotic energy, I began to take on a negative headspace and often wished I would die.

I ran on empty a lot of the time and only found myself pushing forward because of the overwhelming feelings of needing to be responsible and reliable for others.  I was living for others rather than myself, which is a dangerous combination. This eventually led to needing constant outside validation for me to find purpose and meaning.

If it was not for my nightly walks during my breaks at work, looking at the stars and listening to music, I don’t think I would have had the will to push through my sadness, low self-esteem, and low self-worth. That is because these 1am walks let me experience joy and beauty whilst being surrounded by stars. I was also alone during these walks and did not have to worry about anyone else but myself. I was able to connect to nature and music, which brought me relief from the emotional pain and conflicts I experienced.

It was not until I moved to the UK that my mental health became a priority. Even though I pushed through barriers brought on by my undiagnosed mental health and was able to move to a different country, I was secretly suffering and found it difficult to do day-to-day tasks. I was no longer able to leave my student accommodations. I avoided any public places which led to missing lectures, avoiding friendships, or even doing walks that often brought me relief.

Getting Mental Health Support with CBT

I knew something had to change and wanted to change so badly. I was scared though, with the fear that even if I tried these feelings would never go away. Likewise, if these feelings did leave me, I would lose a sense of who I was. I combated the fear and began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment. The first round of therapy focused on my social anxiety and offered coping skills that could help me get outside again. CBT also challenged me to expose myself to my fears of going outside in a healthy way, by holding myself accountable each week to my recovery. I still remember my first walk during this time, I listened to my music and walked to the beach. I was able to once again connect to nature and music, which was always a place of comfort and peace for me. With time, I was able to build up my courage and go outside to attend lectures, hang out with friends, and find a job, but each day was always a battle between myself and anxiety. Sometimes anxiety would win and I could not leave the house for the day.

Even though it has been about 5 years since my initial CBT treatment, I still struggle with getting outside and being in social spaces. I often need to use the coping strategies I have picked up along the way to help push me forward. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but it is important to not be hard on myself the days I can’t leave the house.

One technique to help remind myself that I am in a safe environment is to use my 5 senses. For example, if I go to a coffee shop, I can hear the chatter of the patrons or the music playing from the radio. I can feel the hot coffee cup and taste the coffee. I can smell the coffee brewing. I can see my surroundings and find a comfortable place to sit.  This is a technique I go to often, as it helps ground my anxiety and help my brain process, I am safe and no longer in the past trauma that brought on my mental health disorders.

Self-Meditation and PhD Research

Going on these walks with my music and camera is something I have consistently done since the first round of CBT. It has become a way of me feeling through my emotions and finding a balance that alleviates my emotional pain. I decided to call them ‘Self-Meditation Walks’ because it is a form of meditation for me, where I use mindfulness to become mentally clear.

Though I practice various forms of meditation, all of which have inspired my PhD research, I want to focus on the self-meditation walks because this is the primary way I collect field recordings and photography for my soundscape design.

Constructing a Soundscape with Self-Meditation Walks

I began taking field recordings (on my phone) of my walks when I was inspired by the sound of rain during a walk in 2019. At that time, I found a nature reserve near my home and would often go a few times a week. I noticed that the rain hitting leaves or hitting the pond made a different sound. Once spring came, the rain sounds turned to birds chirping, and I had new sounds to experiment with.

I also found the environment to be inspiring and began taking my camera to document the changing seasons of that nature reserve. Sometimes I do not pack my professional camera and end up taking photos or videos from my phone. Typically, the photos I take on my phone are used for social media, like Instagram posts or TikToks.

Below is an example of a TikTok I’ve made from the self-meditation walks:

Click here to watch: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMLhqGQxQ/

My Current Practice

My current form of self-meditation walks still operates similarly to how it first began. I found a few more parks and nature reserves near my home and go for my walks. Since my anxiety levels my be unpredictable day-to-day, my walks are also unpredictable. Sometimes I am able to go a few times a week, sometimes I am not. On the days where I feel intense pressure and can’t fight my anxiety to leave the house, I explore my house and find sights or sounds that inspire me. For instance, we recently had a storm and I took field recordings of the wind from my phone. I think took photos from my window. I plan on making a soundscape from this experience and will share it in the future.

On the days where I am hesitant on leaving the house, I can push myself to go if I have something to look forward to doing. Oftentimes, I use coffee as my motivation. We have a variety of coffee shops near my house. Walking in public places, like high street, is still difficult for me, so I cope by listening to music along the way. This allows me to drown out surroundings I find scary, fear of judgement, fear of not being good enough, and focus on something that balances my mood.

Below are some photos shot from my mobile phone from a recent walk:

Future Research

My soundscapes are generated by the walks I take alone with myself as a form of self-meditation. I plan on taking this observation and exploring research in topics like multi-sensory environments and meditation, or music, senses, and photography. I also would be interested in exploring other soundscape artists and whether they use meditative practices for their soundscape designs.

As far as auto-ethnography, I think it is worth exploring the tendencies I have and choices I take when developing a soundscape.

Follow my PhD Journey:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/core.opulence/​

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CoreOpulence/​

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoreOpulence​

Visit my website: https://coreopulencemusic.com/

January 2022 Launch: Music and Mental Health Group

About the Music and Mental Health Group Launch

The Music and Mental Health Group will launch at the 2022 BFE / RMA (British Forum for Ethnomusicology and the Royal Musical Association) Research Students’ Conference at the University of Plymouth. The website will also go live at this time, allowing for members to view content and sign up to the mailing list.

This conference is “aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate music students, music academics and music practitioners, the conference will have an interdisciplinary focus drawing on the expertise in composition, music technology and practice-as-research of the world-leading Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research” – University of Plymouth

Register here: https://bfe-rma-conference-2022.github.io/

Join the Workshop

During the 2022 BFE / RMA Research Students’ Conference a Music and Mental Health Workshop is scheduled. During this time, the Group will be introduced and delegates will take part in some activities provided by the University’s mental health group on techniques to deal with stress and recognizing mental health issues.

About Music and Mental Health Group

‘Music and Mental Health’ aims to raise awareness of the mental health crisis among musicians through the prism of music education, creation and performance. It offers a platform for the promotion and fostering of research and collaboration concerning the interaction of music and mental health. It provides a safe space for the exchange of experiences and stories, and an evolving database of Mental Health resources. The Group promotes inclusivity, diversity and inclusion, addressing music practitioners, scholars, students of all backgrounds, in particular groups currently at risk. We pay special attention to non-affiliated and freelance individuals as well as immigrants and non-UK students and musicians.

To get involved, sign up to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Being a Digital Officer for a new Study Group

As the Digital Officer/ Marketing Coordinator, I have volunteered my time to help launch the Music and Mental Health Group. Some of my responsibilities include:

  1. Logo creation
  2. Marketing message / mission statement
  3. Build & maintain website
  4. Develop & run Twitter & Facebook
  5. Assist with communications / mailing list

The launch of Music & Mental Health has been in the works for a few months. Inspired by the Covid-19 Pandemic, the committee came together during a time where mental health was impacted to those in the music sector. We hope to continue developing the group to bring a space to share stories and offer resources to those in need.

Winner of SU Society of the Year (2020 & 2021): Building a Successful Doctoral Students Society

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About the Doctoral Students Society

The Doctoral Students Society (DSS) is a post graduate researcher society at the University of Wolverhampton. Established in December 2019 by three dedicated PGRs (committee list below), the society aims to bring doctoral students together for social events, networking, and sharing of ideas.

The DSS welcomes anyone from full-time to part-time, international, and from any discipline. The DSS also offer online social spaces for those who cannot attend our social outings. However, during Covid-19, all social events were moved to strictly online platforms.

The Doctoral Students Society brings doctoral students together, creating a strong community on campus. The DSS currently have 94 members on their mailing list.

Building a Successful Society

The success of the DSS comes down to filling the needs of PGRs. There was a lack of PGR communities on campus and the DSS fills the gap through academic and social events, including study groups and hang out sessions, to get to know like-minds and develop friendships. However, networking and marketing the society also contributed to its growth.

Here is our advice on how to make a successful society:

  • Attending Freshers Fair (and ReFreshers)- setting up a booth, a virtual booth, providing an introduction video about the society, and having a Q+A. Even though this event might be catered to undergraduates, post-grads who are trying to get to know their university or looking for connection might attend.
  • Working with Students Union – promoting events on the Students Union webpage and having a landing page on the SU website. Example:
  • Working with the Doctoral College – adding events to the newsletters & PGR almanac (timetable of events), as well as word of mouth promotion of the society.
  • Attend inductions – formally introducing the DSS during inductions, this is a great place to get new PGRs interested in the society.
  • Offering a variety of events (virtual and IRL) – trial and error your events to figure out what students are interested in and what times they are available. We discovered our study groups (10am) and group hang outs (8pm) are the most attended. You can try other events such as: game night, movie night, group outings, etc.
  • Maintaining a mailing list – we aim to send a DSS newsletter once a month and a separate email for upcoming events. Our newsletters include changes to the society, open forum for Q+A, introductions to new PGRs, and other news.
  • Social media – Twitter is a hot spot for academia. We currently use Twitter and Facebook to help promote our society and share information we also send out in our newsletter: Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive regular updates. 
  • Providing a safe place for comments/ concerns about university studies.
  • Making sure all paperwork is in order – maintain your society every year by renewing your society with your SU, also remember to file the risk assessments for meetings and frequently check SU communications.
  • Create a separate email account that is dedicated to the society rather than using your personal email/ student email. We used outlook.com to help us stay organized with communications.
  • Create logo and hashtag that help establish online presence. Our logo is:

Winning SU Society of the Year: 2020 and 2021

The Students Union awards at the University of Wolverhampton ran for the past 11 years. This is an opportunity for students to show recognition and celebrate the achievements of University academic and non-academic staff, SU Staff and students who have helped make your life at University better.

The DSS had the honor of being nominated for the 2020 and 2021 awards, as well as winning the awards, two years in a row!

To learn more about previous winners please visit: https://www.wolvesunion.org/awards/winners/

Meet the committee:

Chair

Secretary

Treasurer

Reimagining the art of listening: Soundscape design paired with photography (BARN Virtual Colloquia)

Happy to share I will be presenting my research: Reimagining the art of listening: Soundscape design paired with photography.

Join me on 11/11/21 at the British Audio-Visual Research Network (BARN) Virtual Colloquia, an international, virtual community of scholars and practitioners from all disciplines engaged with the study of music and sound in audio-visual media.

To learn more, please visit: https://lnkd.in/eAkGnHrp

Abstract: Sounds are elements that make up the environments we interact with. With our perceptions, sounds are associated with certain locations, like the whispers in a library, or the laughter at a comedy show. These sound signposts can be recorded through field recordings and manipulated to capture the essence of the environment, transforming the audio into a soundscape. Since the conception of soundscapes in 1977 from R. Murray Schafer, soundscape design and understanding has changed, now often including visual elements to the soundscape piece, the most popular being in movies and video games.

My current research is inspired by YouTube presentations of soundscapes, which include images paired with sound in a video format. I am looking to see how listeners interact with soundscapes paired to photography, particularly if positive responses can be evoked from the listener. My work is also built from guided meditation, but rather than using speech to guide the listener throughout the music, I use field recordings paired with my photography.

I will share my current works (generated closer to the time of presenting) and explain the creative process, output of soundscapes paired with photography, and how images can transform the understanding of soundscapes.

Biography: Madison Miller is a PhD candidate studying soundscapes at the University of Wolverhampton. Originally from the United States, Madison received her BA in in Philosophy, Psychology, and English in 2015 from Millersville University. Later, she moved to England in 2017 to pursue her MA in Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. In the past, she ran the Millersville University Philosophical Society. She currently runs the Doctoral Students Society at Wolverhampton.

Example:

The audio was recorded in London, UK at midnight. The photo with this video is a photo I shot at the recording location. I am collecting different sounds and making immersive experiences for my PhD research project in music. Ultimately, I am looking to see how sound impacts the mind and body. Feel free to share your experience with this recording below in the comments section or share on social media using the hashtag #CoreOpulence.

What I’ve Learned after Organizing a Symposium

Earlier this year I was voted to be a Student Committee Member for the Royal Music Associations (RMA). With this role, the Student Committee (made up of 6 dedicated students) engage with the RMA student community and aim to bring students and research together: The RMA Student Committee liaises between the wider student body and the RMA, acting as a voice for students in the RMA and taking an active role in shaping and promoting student-related activities of the RMA.

This year the RMA teamed up with Netherlands’ Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis (KVNM) to organize a student symposium which took place on 3rd & 4th July 2021, via Zoom.

About the symposium

KVNM-RMA International Postgraduate Symposium in Music Research, 2021

The two oldest musicological organisations in the world, the UK’s Royal Musical Association (RMA) and the Netherlands’ Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis (KVNM), brought together postgraduate researchers from the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, with the aim of stimulating and developing national and international collaborations across the field. The two-day symposium featured paper presentations showcasing current research related to music in the broadest sense.

What was my role?

As someone who has a degree in media & communication, I took on the task of promotion and communication. This involved using social media to promote the event and encourage participation, as well as drafting/ monitoring the email communication between the RMA/ KVNM and the speakers.

Another task was to read each submission and help decide who would be offered a speaker position at the event.

Finally, I also chaired the 3rd session on 3rd July 2021. This role was to ensure each speaker used their allocated speaking time appropriately.

What have I learned from this experience?

The biggest lesson learned from organizing this event is how vital it is to work as a team. Each person who volunteered to bring this event to life had unique skills and abilities which made for delegating tasks easy and splitting the work-load effortless.

In order to stay as organized as possible, we held meetings, took meeting minutes, made agendas, set goals, and overall used a collaborative approach when making decisions. We had a mix of volunteers, some with previous symposium experience and some not, which allowed for a flow of direction and welcoming of out-of-the-box ideas.

Overall, there are a lot of little details that need to be sorted out in order to organize a symposium. From establishing an email, to a website landing page, to ticket orders, to drafting a booklet, there is plenty to be done. I thank all volunteers who joined me to make this happen and admire the hard work everyone put in to making this symposium such a success.

Below is a snippet from the KVNM-RMA International Postgraduate Symposium in Music Research 2021 booklet:

Music & Mental Health Group Now on Twitter & Looking for Members

Music & Mental Health Group is a community of students, staff, independent scholars/musicians & recent graduates that advocate music & mental health in a hybrid way. #MMHGroup #MentalHealthMatters

The aim is to spread mental health awareness through research, advocacy/action and creative solutions.

We liaise with existing establishments whilst also gathering data and information to better understand the existing picture of music and mental health.

Music and Mental Health Group is looking for people to join our communication and online presence team. If you’re interested and would like to contribute to our efforts, please contact us via Twitter:

Our website is currently under construction and we hope to have it up and running soon!

A big thanks for Michelle Assay, Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, for starting the initiative.

Photography Competition Winner #wlvARC2021

The Annual Researcher Conference (ARC) at the University of Wolverhampton is hosted during Researchers’ Week each year. “Researchers’ Week aims to provide postgraduate researchers with the opportunity to develop their research skills and knowledge development, as well as their networks with other researchers and their community of practice” (Source: University of Wolverhampton).

This year Researchers’ Week was conducted entirely online, as well as open and free for the public to enjoy.

This year the theme was ‘Vision 2030 – Developing our Research’ with a focus on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, making Impact and addressing Societal Challenges within their own research or broader research area. (Source: University of Wolverhampton).

Alongside the ARC, the University of Wolverhampton has a variety of competitions for PGRs to enter.

This year I entered into the Doctoral Depictions Photo Competition 2021.

“As part of Researcher’s Week and ARC2021, Doctoral Depictions is another way in which we can share the breadth and quality of research being undertaken by research students and is also an opportunity for students studying at a distance to take part in the conference activities” (Source: University of Wolverhampton).

I am proud to say I won the competition this year with the following submission:

Visual Cues for Sonic Textures

I photograph alongside field recordings to generate visual/audio soundscapes. During this photo-set, I shot 400+ photos whilst field recording in Epping Forrest. I used other photos to generate a stop-motion + soundscape, but found the atmosphere of this photo eerie and a stand alone representation of the feeling of loneliness.

Teaching my first Undergraduate Seminar

I am happy to say that on 6th May 2021 I taught my first undergraduate lecture for the School of Performing Arts at the University of Wolverhampton.

Title: Rediscovering & reimagining spaces through soundscape design & multimedia 

Description: Sounds are elements that make up the environments we interact with. With our perceptions, sounds are associated with certain locations, like the whispers in a library, or the laughter at a comedy show. Yet, these sound signposts can be recorded or manipulated to capture the essence of the environment. In this seminar, Madison Miller, PhD music researcher at the University of Wolverhampton, will review the latest research in soundscapes by sharing how spaces can be reimagined through her  recent soundscape designs. Specifically, with field recordings, ambience, and using a multimedia approach. 

Though this was an optional seminar for students to attend, many joined in! I received a wealth of comments and questions regarding my PhD research and really enjoyed the engagement.

This seminar was hosted through the virtual learning platform, Canvas, which allowed for the seminar to be recorded and shared openly. To watch the seminar, please see the YouTube video below:

Soundscape or Ambience? ‘Alternate Reality Cafe’

This piece was inspired by living in lockdown.

Since lockdown started over a year ago, I had to transform my kitchen into a makeshift café to help get my coffee fix throughout the day.

I wanted to create a different sense of ambience that we would usually hear in a typical café (like jazz or indie), as this lockdown has made the streets feel almost post-apocalyptic and eerie. Using the continuous drone throughout the piece, I feel, encourages the other-worldly eeriness I was going for.

Though I used ambient sounds, I also believe the field recording from my kitchen uses the soundmarks as a way of documenting the kitchen soundscape. In this piece you will hear sounds of myself making coffee, from heating water to stirring.

Likewise, the photo is the lovely coffee I had, curtesy of my kitchen and I think this combination of audio/ visual allows the listener to have one foot in reality and the other in an alternate world.

Listen here:

Making of Heavy Rain + Piano Soundscape #CoreOpulence

The soundscape of my living environment changed over the course of the past few months, especially with the implementation of the third UK lockdown. Once busy streets and loud, popular pubs keeping me awake at night, are no more. Traffic is light and people are keeping to themselves. Though there is a change in sound scenery, the ambience of my environment continues to inspire me. Especially with the increase of nature sounds taking over the urban soundscape spaces.

Rain is a sound that is consistent with London living. At the same time, the rain acts as a tool that shapes the environmental soundscape during the process of a drizzle or downpour. From bouncing off umbrellas to taking conversations inside warm houses, rain can transform the sound experience, whether we are actively hearing, listening, or not.

Though rain can stand alone as it’s own soundscape, I am in the process of learning how to layer different sounds together in order to provoke emotions from the listener. This rain recording is accompanied by a mellow piano in an effort to see if positive emotions can result from the listening experience. From my personal experience as an ambience listener, this combination of rain and piano is a staple when it comes to finding relaxation or needing something to fill the sound-space whilst I am studying. When listening to this combination I am often able to unwind. How do you feel when you listen to this soundscape? Please share your feedback and get in touch using the hashtag #CoreOpulence (or fill out the contact form on my website).

The photograph accompanying this piece is a shot from Slough, UK. As I was out walking, the rain started as a drizzle and then began to get heavy. Before the heavy rain came, I was able to take some shots of raindrops on the leaves. Once the heavy rain came, I took my phone out to record the sounds. I believe this process of adding imagery to the sounds encourages the visual and audible elements to establish the soundscape story. Where are you? What are you doing? Where are you going? Your story can be your own, but it starts with the rain motivating the journey. Whether you are on the path to relax, need a visual guide to meditate, or anything in between, this soundscape is the start of your journey.

The two elements, rain and piano, were fused together using Cakewalk. I tried keeping the sounds as natural as possible, without much manipulation. However, I did reduce the gain of the piano in order for the rain to be highlighted, and I reduced the speed of the piano in an effort to provoke feelings of relaxation. Though this might seem like a simple task, this piece took a few hours to make. The field recording was done during my walk in Slough, UK. I then had to compose the piano and play around with which piano sounds I liked. I experimented and ended up deleting my first piano sample because I did not feel it went well with the rain sounds. Finally, I created a loop to allow the piece to be one hour long.

In the end, I believe this is a piece I can fall asleep to. I think the composition of the piece is reflective enough of my goal to encourage positive responses from the listener. Positive responses meaning relaxation, peace, chill, etc. Yet, I will add that I finished making this piece at 4:00am and perhaps I associate feeling tired with the soundscape and so having that predisposition would make me want to fall asleep listening to it.

By the River Thames: Soundscape of Bridge Gardens

I traveled to Maidenhead’s riverside Bridge Gardens with the goal of capturing sound field recordings and photographs of the river. Little did I know, I would stumble to find more than just geese!

The Ada Lewis Memorial Fountain was placed in Bridge Gardens in 2010. Originally a drinking trough for horses in the 1908, the trough was converted into a fountain that is illuminated at night. Ada Lewis was the local benefactor. Here is a photograph of the top of the fountain:

Up until 1903 there was a toll house on the bridge. Maidenhead townspeople were unhappy with the toll house and ‘freed; the bridge, subsequently throwing the gate into the river.

Bridge Park is located right off the River Thames and the Junction of Bath Road and Ray Mead Road. There is a combination of nature and urban sounds that fuse together. In the below recording you will hear geese, traffic, running water, and wind. I have also added some soft piano to accompany the recording.

Abbey Ruins: Soundscape + Recording

This is a snippet of some sounds I recorded during the Abbey Ruins (Reading, UK) Christmas Light show in December 2020. Though the light and sound show at the Abbey Ruins was an immersive, in-person soundscape experience. I wanted to capture this moment and transform it to a virtual soundscape environment based off what I took away from the experience. The eerie sounds composed together capture the creepiness of walking around the ruins in the dark. Though overall the experience was beautiful and fun, the history and the darkness around the Abbey Ruins is what I wanted to focus on. The image on the video was shot with my Canon EOS Rebel and edited slightly. Interestingly, the lines painted on the ruins were made with projection lights. I thought this added another element to the ruins, giving them a new look in the night.

Feel free to share your experience with this recording below in the comments section or share on social media using the hashtag #CoreOpulence

RMA Student Rep Elections: Vote for me!

*Update: Thank you to all who voted! I am now a student committee member and will serve a 2 year term. To learn more about the RMA please visit: https://www.rma.ac.uk/

Are you part of the Royal Music Association #RMA? The Student Rep elections are now open! I am running in this election and would love your vote! I am a 2nd year PhD student researching soundscapes and believe I would make an excellent addition to the RMA student team. More details on my experience below. To vote for me, please visit: https://lnkd.in/dh743yH

Epping Forest Stop Motion + Vocal Soundscape

This is a quick upload of some of the art I am currently exploring for my PhD research in music/ soundscapes.

What I have come to find is anything can really be a soundscape because noise is all around us! Whether we are listening to traffic, or having the radio on in the car, sound is everywhere.

I took a trip to Epping Forest recently and felt inspired to create a stop motion. The music added are my own vocals and beats. I am currently taking vocal lessons and wanted to play around with myself as the instrument 🙂

Feel free to share your experience with this recording below in the comments section or share on social media using the hashtag #CoreOpulence

Changes to the Creative Process through Autoethnography, Auto-Ethnomethodology and Reflective Practice

An ethnomethodology is an examination of common cultural actions, beliefs, and behaviors that make sense of everyday life. This is done through researching communications of everyday people through speech and other interactions (Allen 2017). However, ‘auto’ differentiates this method by prefixing ‘self’ to ethnomethodology. Instead of focusing on the standard or perhaps alternative ways of communication of everyday people, auto-ethnomethodology explores the researcher’s personal experiences. In the end, their personal experience highlights their cultural experience through actions of self-observation and self-reflection. Here, “reflexivity is key to developing a critical consciousness of how the practitioner-researcher’s identity, experiences, position, and interests influence their creative practice” (Lyle 2016)). This can be documented various ways but is often seen in research logs, revisions, notes, or drafted materials. Yet, academia has changed to incorporate modern forms of documentation which may also include blog posts, online journal entries, and social media posts. All of which are capable of documenting insights, difficulties, and pivotal events throughout the creative practice.

Through the auto-ethnomethodology the communication between self and self is usually done through informal documentation, as the primary aim is to keep the creative researcher in a natural setting. This may lead to biased retrospection. “Self-reflection is a problematic method in that individuals either do not have enough distance from their own activities to recognize patterns and sequences of significance, or they are so distanced from the actual activity that their memories cannot be considered accurate” (Lyle 2016).

Yet, the perspective of the artist is still important to note in order to obtain some type of understanding towards their composition. For the purposes of this research, the composition of soundscapes may be better appreciated with the description of the composer’s meaning to their work (Brandt 1992). Autoethnography is considered a useful research method where the researcher’s personal experience run parallel to self-reflection, where multiple layers of consciousness and perspectives are explored through relationships of the self and other or self to self via communication (Mendez 2013).

As mentioned earlier, this communication may be informal or formal, from blog posts to drafts of previous writings. Yet, it is important to note that communication does not solely mean verbal or written language. An exciting element to this project is the ability to explore beyond language and analyze the soundscapes, or other versions of art, generated throughout the creative process.

Change happens whether we document the process or not. With the help of ethnomethodology, I can examine how the creative process in my own research has transformed, depending on my self-talk and other influences.

World Suicide Prevention Day, 10th September 2020: My Story

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to share my story.

I just turned 30. With this age comes a lot of funny stories and happy memories, but the dichotomy of life brings the painful reminders and scars too.

Though I have experienced good moments, often these positive events are outweighed by the dark pull of negative events from the past, unhealthy thought loops, and poor coping mechanisms.

I am the survivor of child abuse.

As a kid, I thought my life was normal. I did not know that yelling, hitting, or anger, was not something other families did. I developed behaviors and thinking processes from these hurtful experiences that have followed me throughout my entire life. Though I am an adult now and can recognize I have the choice to better myself, I am afraid there is no set cure for my c-PTSD or General Anxiety Disorder, only ways of managing it.

I tend to have a lot of black holes in my memory from my childhood, but the pieces of dominant memories saved are those that have sparked feelings of fear, terror, complete unpredictability and lack of safety. To this day, I revert to those intense feelings when there are certain triggers. For example, I could watch a movie and suddenly go to a dark mental space because a scene could have brought me back to my childhood. This also applies to sounds, smells, conversations, people, everyday life, and even recurring dreams.

Self-harm is something I have done since childhood and I learned it through the abuse. I would punch myself in the head during elementary school because I thought punching myself was the way to learn how to remember information. I would sit and hit myself while reading books, practicing my spelling, doing math homework, because I honestly thought this was how to retain information. Anytime I would practice with my parents around, they would do it to me, so I thought it was normal.

Though I do not punch myself anymore, I have recurring negative self-talk, a poor self-image, and have self-harmed in various ways.

My self-esteem was shaped during these years too and has impacted my self-worth and the way I develop relationships with others. From the outside looking in, I hid my anxiety and pain, but during moments of self-destruction I would tell anyone and everyone who would listen to me because I desperately needed love and validation, something to give me worth. I did not know how to regulate my emotions or express myself. I was emotionally stunted.

To this day, I need time alone from others and this may last for months. Relationships exhaust me and I often feel guilty for not being there for the people around me but I need to build these walls in order to feel safe. Other times, I let people walk all over me and I tolerate it for longer than I should because I seek a connection. I feel like my mental health is a giant contradiction. I crave belonging but at the same time I run away and reject it. It takes some very special people to be patient with me.

Suicide is something that has come as a wave of thought throughout my life. I remember the first time I began to think about suicide was when I was 15. Many thought I was angsty, but no one took the time to listen and understand why I did not spend time with my family, why I slept for so long after school, why I never left my room, why I didn’t shower or take care of myself. Instead, it was met with more emotional abuse, the constant belittling, the comparing to others, the expectations that I could not meet. If it wasn’t for my friends or hobbies, I do not think I would have made it through or found something to live for.

Art became my way of expression. I dove into ceramics, drawing, music, and photography. Photography is what stuck the most to me. I was able to show the contrast of my life in photos. I felt like a light with a dark cloud looming over me, and it showed with my work. I could express myself and let out the emotions.

As a young adult though, I began to overwork myself. I had full time university and often had 2 jobs. My hobbies took a backseat and I lost who I was as a person. I would come home from a long day and cry, wishing it would all end. These dark emotions would last weeks, where I would eat, cry, sleep, self-harm, while simultaneously trying to find an external source of happiness.

Even to this day it is a challenge to be comfortable with me and find happiness and pleasure through my alone time and hobbies. This is because my worth as a child was always externalized. Everything was based on conditions.

Though I am 30 now and have had treatment, therapy, and medication, I still have relapses. My most recent relapse was in May 2020. With therapy, I learned coping mechanisms and had a plan in place for a situation like this. For the first time in my life I called Samaritans, a mental health charity that provides emotional support 24/7 through their hotline. After letting all my sadness out, crying with a stranger, I was able to think more logically. Samaritans not only let me release my feelings but helped me plan on how to get additional support.

Suicide is preventable and I hope those of you who have read this know that you can get through these emotions. You are not alone. To get help please reach out to the Samaritans, they are here to listen: https://www.samaritans.org/

I learned that my problems are fixable and to take it slow, one day at a time. I also learned that surrounding myself with good people encourages me to fight everyday through my anxiety. I know I am not fully cured, but I have improved over time. Progress at any size is worth a party. I am wishing you well on your mental health journey.

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.

Self Reflection and my Annual Progress Review (First Year as a PhD Student)

For my APR (Annual Progress Review), I have thought a lot about my work. Throughout this year, I noticed my tools, environment, and mental health have impacted my creative practice. Read more about these observations below:

Music & Reflection

Currently my materials are limited. I use my phone (galaxy s8) to do all recordings and then import them onto my laptop. I then use software like Audacity to play around with the sounds and then Adobe Premire Pro to generate the video. As of now, I am uploading my music onto YouTube because this is the platform I am familiar and comfortable using. Though Soundcloud is not something I am considering now, further in my creative practice I think Soundcloud would be a useful place to share my work, as it does not compress the audio file. With where I am at, I would consider my sound art to be raw like Janet Cardiff’s, or the wild west of music production. I work with the resources and skills I have and often take these fragments of disorder to create something new.

 I decided using everyday objects as my base for this creative project was made from my want to be comfortable with what I am doing. I do not have a musical background. Rather than looking at the technical aspects of music, I decided to use what I know and familiar with to make sense of my future work with binaural beats. Perhaps as I am taking the steps to build to binaural beat instrumentation, I can experiment with binaural recordings and get comfortable with the techniques and uses, much like the way Janet Cardiff uses binaural recordings in her work.

Additionally, it is not easy to admit that I lack formal training in music but maybe this is what allows me to be more experimental and explorative? I draw inspiration from Susan Philipsz, a Scottish sculptor of sound artist, who is known for “her untrained, unaccompanied singing voice” (Corner 2010). Philipsz won the Turner Prize 2010 with her work Lowlands Away (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWeKzTDi-OA), a sound installation consisting of three version of a Scottish lament (BBC News 2010). She has a passion for singing and has not let her untrained voice stop her from expressing herself and creating pieces for others to respond to. This is an incredible achievement and provides inspiration to my current work.

Involving Multimedia via Instagram

Text and visual elements of my work exist through my Instagram account, Core.Opulence, where I share positive affirmations created by myself using Adobe Spark. I pair inspirational texts with images using an Instagram format, then use hashtags to target more visitors to my page. Though this is not related to my music exploration per se, the affirmation text and visuals are a physical reminder for me to keep going and push forward. I genuinely feel that my work can impact others in a positive light and my hope is that those who interact with me can find feelings of peace, relaxation, love, support, etc. I am very passionate about my creative practice because it brought the light to something dark in my life. I suffer from anxiety and began meditation in 2015 to help combat my stress, worry, fears, etc. Through meditation, I was introduced to new and different ways of finding inner-peace, one being binaural beats. Though my project is artistic and not clinical, I still believe I can discover how people feel when interacting with my work and anticipate that I can help someone is someway find a good feeling, even if it is for a moment.

Mental Health:

Derek Hess, an American artist, is known for his work in making posters and CD covers for bands such as Deftones, Motion City Soundtrack, and Unearth. To promote Mental Health Awareness in 2017, Hess decided to post daily images to his social media pages that displayed his struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. “What started off as self-exploration quickly turned into a personal journey for many dealing with their own mental health and addiction issues” (Valentine 2018). Topics like relationships, loneliness, depression, and suicide were shared and discussed, breaking down the stigma of mental illness. Hess goes to say,

“Artists reflect the times they live in; they are a mirror of society. As far as raising awareness for mental health goes, it seems like the curtain is beginning to be pulled back on mental illness in our current society. When creating pieces inspired by it, it is important for the artist to articulate the meaning behind it. The viewer may like it but may not “get” it. So, talking about your work is important regarding this subject” (Valentine 2018).

This is a powerful statement from Hess and though my creative practice does not target mental health, my work reflects myself, which has a mental illness. I believe being open about this throughout my creative practice will help continue the process of breaking down stigmas.

ARC2020 Hosted by the University of Wolverhampton Photo Competition Winner

Thank you to those at the University of Wolverhampton and PGR’s who have voted for my photo for this year’s Doctoral Depictions Photo Competition. I am chuffed to have won first place and look forward to taking many more photos of my PhD journey.

Here is my submission:

Whilst collecting field recordings (to grow my sonic library), I take photographs of the environment I am in. As of late, I go to local parks to collect sound textures and follow the social distancing rules. This photo was taken during a recording session and used for inspiration to generate new music.

Shower Thoughts Version 2, editing the sonic experience

After submitting and receiving feedback for Shower Thoughts v1 (Shower Thoughts in Self-Isolation: A Sonic Guided Journey) at the 21st Century Music Symposium, I was inspired to keep working with this idea and make changes based on the comments received. Not only that, but my opinions on the piece changed and I wanted to try something more experimental.

To understand the Shower Thoughts v1 project, please visit my blog: https://coreopulencemusic.com/2020/04/23/shower-thoughts-in-self-isolation-a-sonic-guided-journey/

For Shower Thoughts v2, I decided to make the following changes:

  1. Reduce the text on screen / remove text prompts
  2. Overlay more sounds on top of one another
  3. Make the piece longer
  4. Add some sound effects to distort some of the sound, very minimal

One reviewer of my piece pointed out that the text was distracting, almost as if I were promoting thoughts rather than letting the listener come to their own conclusion. I had to agree, my main goal was to see where the lister goes with the piece. The text prompt would take away from that experience or journey. Additionally, the sound associations are open for interpretation. If I prompted the listener to think there was a spoon stirring tea through text, then the authenticity of the listener’s response would be impacted.  I decided for Shower Thoughts v2 to remove the text prompts for this to be truer to an audio guide.

In Shower Thoughts v1, I never had more than 2 recordings playing at the same time. Though I did this to create a linear path through the music, I feel that thoughts we have are not always linear. For Shower Thoughts v2 I decided to overlay more recordings on top of one another, closer together, to bring the feel of thoughts in a frenzy of the mind.

Making the piece longer was also something I felt was necessary. I wanted the piece to feel as if the lister was in the shower having their own thoughts. I went and extended the piece from 2 minutes to 12 minutes to give this more of a realistic feel of taking a shower.

Finally, I played around with some sound effects on some of the recordings. Though it is not overly noticeable in the piece, I wanted to see how the slight various of gains, fades, and other effects would contribute to the chaos of the mind. Afterall, thoughts jump in and out without warning, some are louder than others, and so the recordings were meant to reflect this.

Overall, creating this piece was rewarding and I plan on coming back to it again to see what other edits can be made. Please take a moment to listen to Shower Thoughts v2 and feel free to leave your feedback:

Photography During Quarantine (Part II)

Whilst out collecting field recordings & building my sonic library, I take my camera and document what I see.

The process:

I walk to park areas and follow the government guidelines for social distancing. During the walk, I record noises and sounds that I find inspiring. At the same time, what I see inspires me too.

Enjoy the sights!