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.
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.
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
*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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For Shower Thoughts v2, I decided to make the following changes:
Reduce the text on screen / remove text prompts
Overlay more sounds on top of one another
Make the piece longer
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:
Guided meditation is a practice where the listener is guided through a sonic experience in order to achieve various results, usually in the form of finding peace or comfort. The instructor during these guided meditations may ask you to control your breathing, let go of unwanted thoughts, or focus on your visualization/ imagination, and may use other sound ques to provide additional avenues to achieve that.
I was inspired to make a sonic piece that explored the concept of guided music – but rather using vocals to guide someone along a journey, I wanted to play around with sound affect theory. Through cognitive routes, our emotions, memories, or bodily movements react to the sounds we are exposed to. This piece is an example of inductive reasoning, where the listener is presented sound data of a shower, leading the listener to create the meaningful association of ‘shower thoughts’ through the additional sounds overlaid.
These shower thoughts were inspired by the current COVID-19 pandemic, where most of the population in the UK is practicing social distancing and self-isolation. The background noise of water whilst in the shower gives us time to be alone with our thoughts. Perhaps you are winning an argument in your head, you’re worried about bills, or thinking casually about what you will do socially after the pandemic. Share your journey in the comments below.
The true goal of this piece is to take the listener on a journey, to allow them to make their own way throughout the piece, without being guided by vocals. Instead, the sound of the running shower sets the stage and the listener’s imagination can take the journey, make associations, and have cognitive reactions from there.
Social distancing is crucial at this time, as it is now mandated during the pandemic. We can only leave the house for essentials, which includes one daily exercise. This week I put my fitbit and facemask on to take a nice, spring walk outside. During my walk, I recorded the birds chirping and cars driving around.
My main goal this week is to discover the difference between noise and sound. Through using the recordings of the cars driving and birds chirping, I will try to analyse the differences between noise and sound.
Why differentiate noise vs sound?
Though these words seem interchangeable, I want to bring consistency to my research – to determine which word is more fitting for the sonic experiences I create. In order to dissect my sonic experiences (or philosophically analyse them), I need to establish the proper vocabulary to convey my abstract ideas.
Noise and sound, the similarities
Noise and sound affects (music affects) human memory, emotion, and responses. The study of this phenonema is known as psychoacoustics, where psychological and physiological responses to noise or sound (from music, speech, etc.) are explored (Platz et al 1995). With psychoacoustics research, noise or sound affect our perceptions of the world, altering our understanding of depth, speed, and motion. Likewise, noise or sound evokes a direct cognitive response from our memories, which also links to our emotions. For instance, hearing a dog bark may associate with a past memory where you were bit by a dog, resulting in the dog bark to launch the feeling of fear.
Another term closely related to psychoacoustics is affect theory, where ‘affect’ relates to the feelings or responses from the body when introduced to different stimuli. Specifically, a stimulus that makes an organism think a certain way (Laszlo 1968). Affect theory embodies different stimuli like lights, images, literature, and includes exploration of music, sound, and noise.
Noise and sound, the differences
Sound carries information, not just the emotional or cognitive reminders described in psychoacoustics, but physical information. These physical milestones include notes, intensity, timbre, etc. (Platz et al 1995) and can easily be replicated by measuring wavelength and frequency. This suggests that pitch, or the notes that create sound, establish order and consistency, whilst noise is disorderly due to the lack of pitch, remaining inconsistent.
Yet, this does not mean noise has to be unpleasant due to causing disorder. There are inconsistent noises that exist that are soft and easy on the ear, like turning the page of a book or hearing distant walking down the street. At the same time, there are jarring, unnerving, loud noises, like a crying baby.
Thought provoking quotes defining noise and sound from various music aesthetics, acoustic noise, waveform theories, etc.
“If we define sound as anything we can hear, then noise is the kind of sound that is disorderly” (Levarie 1977).
“Noise appears to be the sensory equivalent of dirt. Where dirt, as anthropologists say, is matter out of place, noise is sense out of place—or in a word, nonsense.¹ It is a manifestation of the disorder of the world, of its entropic tendencies. And since noise is undefinable, it cannot define” (Coessens, Kathleen 2019).
“For a sound to be hearable by human ears, its fluctuation must be relatively rapid: at least fifteen times per second the pressure must rise and fall” (Evans 2005).
Noise can be defined subjectively as unwanted sound, sound not desired by the recipient… Noise is part of the environment in which we live. To determine the severity of noise as an environmental concern, some criterion has to be chosen. Health is a logical criterion because it covers all the effects upon the organism, rather than merely the absence of disease. For our purposes, we consider health as a quantitative measure of physical, emotional, and social well-being” (Bragdon 1971).
Selecting the recordings for PhD research
Noise and sound are seemingly limitless to record in any outdoor setting. Yet, I decided analysing birds chirping and cars driving for a few reasons. Primarily, both were easy to capture, but, more importantly, both carry features or characteristics that relate to concepts I have explored in my research. Through birds chirping and cars driving, I can bring my research to life, using real world experiences to differentiate between noise and sound.
Features and characteristics of bird vs car recordings
Usual sound heard daily
Can also be defined as ‘bird song’
Often used in meditation recordings, relaxation music
Associated with the animal
Can be tuned out or ignored
Emotions evoked (examples): peace, calm
Usual sound heard daily
Can be tuned out or ignored, droning
Can be alarming with horn honk, squeaky breaks, etc.
Introduction to exploring sonic textures using everyday objects:
After talking with my PhD advisors about my current research, we decided the next course of action would be to create some sonic textures to pair with what I have learned so far. After recording the sonic textures and compiling them together, I then compared the noise/sound to different areas of recent research focus, including sonic affect theory, western meditation practices, drone music, music association, and more.
The process of discovery:
Since the University facilities are not available, travel is not advised, and we are all in self-isolation from the pandemic, I decided to record sounds and noises made using everyday objects in my home. Some of the tools I used include spoons, bottle caps, computer mouse, keys, pens, and doors. After recording, I compiled the sounds/ noises together using Audacity.
Asking the questions:
My research has led me to explore sonic textures on my own, along with endless rabbit holes of definitions, philosophers, musicians, and theories. Through exploration of different subjects and categories, I am left with many questions unanswered. Likewise, I am left with a lack of knowing how to view or explain my current research. I think this is normal with the PhD process. Afterall, a PhD usually consist of exploring an area of research that is currently lacking in a particular field. The end result usually introduces new terms with definitions and a new way of viewing the field of study, offering a new direction for future researchers to build from.
As I am listening to the noises created from everyday object, I ask myself:
What is the difference between noise and sound?
When everyday objects stand alone as a sole instrument, would they make noise or sound?
When these objects come together to create rhythm, or other musical structures, how would I define this noise/sound?
Is music comprised of sound or of noise?
How would I define the music I am creating with these everyday objects?
How do binaural beats fit into this definition?
The way I view and explain my research to others will depend on the terms and definitions I use. After all, the languages we use are the building blocks to understanding the world around us.
Taking a term used in everyday vocabulary might be hard to re-create. However, using the associations with words could potentially give a better understanding to the research topics I am trying to share with the community.
Music is the same way, or even sounds/ noise. We associate a song to a past memory. We even use noise to associate with emergencies, like fire-alarms and police sirens. Music, noise, or sound provoke nearly the same response as language through these associations. Likewise, music communicates with us and can prep us for internal or external experiences.
Though it is still early in my research, I find myself using the word ‘sonic texture’ as a way to define the music I am creating now. My goal is to play around with sounds/ noise in various ways and find the sound/noise that would mesh with the binaural beat music I intend to create later in my research. In the future, I also plan to explore more of sound vs noise and come up with some theories of my own. Finally, I hope to come to some answers from to the questions posed above.
The sonic texture experience from everyday objects:
After listening to the sonic experience I have compiled using the everyday objects from my home, I am very excited and keen to use keys, bottle caps, or spoons in my future music.
I would like these to be overlaid with tribal drums and have developed some interesting beats in my mind that I can’t wait to develop. However, the keys, bottle caps, or spoons would help keep a beat rather than create a melody. I feel these sounds/ noises are strong enough to hold a beat but would loose charm or structure if performing a melody. I think this is because the sounds/ noises they make, though slightly similar to wind chimes, have less predictability or peaceful pitch. By using them as the beat-keepers, it gives a level of predictability and would make it easier for the listener to appreciate the music instead of constantly searching for where the spoon, bottle caps or key noises/sounds would go in the piece.
Other sounds/ noises like the door closing, I could use as a non-verbal way of allowing the listener to enter or exit the musical piece, much like the way someone enters or exists a room. I feel that it would be fun to create music that guides the listener on a journey. Maybe a journey of leaving the room, picking up the keys, and going for a drive? Likewise, I plan on making verbal guided music. Perhaps I could compare the verbal guides to the sound or noise assumption guides and see how the listener is sonically affected.
It’s official. I have completed my first 6 months as a PhD student!
What a journey it has been so far and plenty of lessons learned. Don’t get me wrong, normal day-to-day life still went on, but the PhD journey brings a splash of nuance that has transformed my world.
Going through the process of getting accepted into a UK university is challenging, but possible. The most important thing to do is find the right researcher/ university match. After sending out some proposals, I landed a great opportunity where I connected with the staff, felt a great flow of ideas, and immersed myself in a creative environment.
Let’s look at the past 6 months and see where my PhD took me…
The first major hurdle of my PhD was getting my proposal to reflect my research goals in a concise way.
Starting with the proposal, I sat down with my advisors to come up with a version that best suited my interests. After 5 drafts and multiple meetings, I landed a proposal that really felt achievable and possible. Little did I know that this would not be the end-all-be-all proposal, though. What I learned through the process of self-editing is that my proposal and research will be constantly evolving.
As I chip away at the stone of my PhD research, my proposal will shape into a unique form all its own. By the time I am ready to present my work in 3ish years, the proposal will have transformed to be nothing like what I first submitted.
Editing proposals is called a ‘working proposal’ and if you’re considering doctoral studies, get ready for the changes that will come from sharing ideas and diving into your research. My advice here would be to remain open-minded and adaptable. It is not always easy listening to feedback or taking on criticism or suggestions, but your advisors are here to help you succeed and want you to complete your course. Likewise, your research can bunny trail you into areas you never considered but find interesting. This leads me to warn you that it is important to find passion in what you are doing. If your proposal begins to lose it’s shine within the years of your research, you can hit the reset button in some way to help bring that spark back. Of course I am speaking from an arts degree, things might be more rigid in other fields, but I would like to remain optimistic.
My proposal from October 2019 focused on meditation and music but by March 2020 transformed to focus on the reactions one has when listening to binaural beats. I have researched areas in art therapy, music theory, religion, etc. and keep finding new terms to explore.
The second biggest hurdle of my doctoral studies is accepting the commute for what it is, a long and unproductive journey.
I made the choice to continue living where I am at in the UK and stay with my same employer instead of moving closer to my university. This choice seemed easier at first. Afterall, when I lived in America I would drive an hour to work and didn’t mind.
However, this commute to university has grown to be more daunting. At first I was pretty exited about getting work done on the train, practice my language lessons on Duolingo, catching up on sleep, etc. There are plenty of things to do on the train and it is a great opportunity for ‘me’ time.
So, what went wrong? Public transport is a godsend when you do not have a car but you are confined to the timetables and schedules. If a train is running late, so are you.
My commute, one-way, is 2.5 hours. I usually take the route with 2 connections and each time I travel I have to request a seat. Bookings for these trains are always high in demand and the trains are so full it is incredibly uncomfortable getting my laptop out to work or even relax. The space is already small on a train, but when people are standing around you during a long commute it is hard to get in a bubble mode and focus on other things.
November was rough for me…. Really rough. There was a huge rainstorm and flooding occurred at one of my connecting stations. I waited 3 hours, then 4, then 5, but I began to develop an intense migraine and had to find a hotel to crash in. I suffer from migraines and used to get them about 3 times a week. Since managing my anxiety, I get them less, but this whole chaos from the trains really left me internally freaking out. Luckily it is all in the past now and I am grateful for having the ability to problem solve under pressure.
November taught me I need to plan as best as I can for the commutes and come up with ways to feel comfortable and relax on the train. My solution is to listen to music using a meditation music app and bring a sleep mask so I can block out the world and step into my own space.
Each time I would go to campus I would fill my days with meeting my advisors and then spending time at Starbucks or the library.
I was sitting in Starbucks, immersed in my computer screen, when all the sudden I needed to take a sip of my matcha tea latte. I like to practice the art of focus when I drink my matcha. This is a technique I picked up in CBT to help with my anxiety. Essentially, I pick up the cup, feel the cup, look at the tea, smell the tea, and really put myself in the moment with my drink. Whilst doing this, I scanned the Starbucks lobby and saw tables and tables of students chatting and smiling faces. It dawned on me that I am really lacking in the university experience if I am not socializing.
How does an adult make friends? I still do not know how to answer that question… but what I came up with seems to be working. I decided to do two things, become a student rep for my fellow doctoral students and to start a doctoral student society.
Being a student rep and creating a new society on campus gives me more responsibility but these opportunities would not exist if I was not a university student. So far, the balance has been fine. I do not feel overwhelmed by the roles of being a uni student, a rep, and a society organizer. Let’s see if this feeling lasts!
Stepping outside of the research world and working on my artistic side of my PhD is what January was all about. I’m still at beginner level with music production, but I am exited to see how my music shapes itself over the next few years.
Right now I am keeping it basic, using music samples and mashing them together to generate binaural beat music.
I have also worked on my branding, building my website and Youtube channel, Instragram, Facebook, Etsy, and Fiverr. All of these are linked in the footer of my website!
It is time to explore my campus and enjoy my time whilst I am there. I am usually a serious person and I need to remind myself to relax and soak up the world around me.
I have made an effort to stay at various hotels near my campus and walk to different parks and locations to get a sense of my surroundings. This gives me more time to be on campus and puts me off having to commute back home right away.
Taking photos really helps with looking at my environment. I take the time to lift my camera up and look for what I find to be pleasant or inspiring. I really appreciate having this hobby and always look forward to sharing my photos with others.
I am in the full swing of research, writing, and reviewing. I have been consistent with meeting my advisors on a monthly basis and think the routine is what is keeping me on track. I am prepping for my research review and believe the content I have generated so far will help reassure the university I can achieve my doctorate.
Throughout the process I have learned the importance of writing things down, making a goals list, and holding myself accountable. Though this is a huge part of PhD study, it has helped in my personal and professional life.
My current career has me working from home a lot more and my PhD skills have taught me how to remain productive when working alone. Likewise, my personal life has transformed as well. I journal regularly and write down my goals.
Journaling stands out this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am officially in self-isolation and going through my journal is helping me stay on track. Not only do I write my goals, but I write lists of affirmations, express my gratitude, and come up with ideas to propel me towards the future. My journal is essentially a hub for my dreams and has become a space that brings me joy and hope.
Reviewing my doctorate research after this 6-month mark has been rewarding. My PhD might seem separate from my day-to-day life, but the reality is this experience has impacted many areas. From problem solving to goal setting, my PhD is really setting me up for success.
As of now, I wouldn’t change anything over these past 6 months and really value the experience so far. I liked sitting down to write this and I think I will have to write more about my experiences. Check back to my blog, I plan on posting more!
If you have any questions about the PhD process feel free to send them my way, maybe I will blog about it 😊
Children displaying bad behaviors in school seems to be be an ongoing crisis in school districts across the United States. Most recently I heard about Philadelphia school district teacher troubles, where 50% of test scores in math, science, and English, do not pass proficiency (NBC10). Bad behavior impacts the child’s ability to learn and concentrate, but the teachers are also pushed to their emotional limits when dealing with these issues.
Roughly 500 teachers in the Philadelphia school district were surveyed about their working conditions and student behaviors. 59% of teachers have considered leaving their profession entirely due to the stresses caused from their jobs (NBC10).
To put into perspective, here are some quotes from the teachers:
“I have high school kids who read at a kindergarten level”
“Chaos. I can describe it as students running around in school like a pack of wolves all day long.”
How can this problem be solved? Some suggest more funding to schools, other suggest smaller class sizes, but a new method coming to light is bringing meditation to the classroom.
Methods of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are working their way into classrooms through a program called FY (For Youth Meditation Program) or similar. These practices are theorized to help students with their anger, stress, or anxiety, through mindfully paying attention. This can be done through various techniques which include breathing, thought focus, sound focus, and other forms.
The claimed benefits from youth meditation include:
Reduction in stress and anxiety
Improves focus and concentration
Improves quality of sleep
With a list like this, it seems like meditation might be the miracle cure American school districts need.
However, not all schools have picked up on this “miracle cure.” As this is a new practice in schools, there lacks scientific support that meditation would be beneficial to children with behavioral issues.
I found a dissertation, which includes case studies, from Sara King at UCLA that puts this question of whether or not meditation is beneficial to the test. The document goes to say that meditation is a form of intervention for these troubled students. King’s goal is to determine the effeteness of this practice. Yet, King’s findings concluded that is is questionable that meditation or yoga is suitable for students k-12. Likewise, school districts are inconsistent with the definition of student well-being and perhaps there are different interventions suitable for different school contexts.
What I found most interesting about King’s dissertation is the interviews she had with the students participating in meditation intervention.
For instance, “Paulina referred to the ability of the practices to bring about a “peaceful mood” and is the only one to specifically describe using the practices to “focus” and “not get distracted” before a test. She also used the phrase “…inside I feel like everything is going smoothly,” and states that she is able to “breathe normally” to refer to her experience after engaging in the breath work practices.” P52
However, another student interviewed has a different response, ” Aliyah, stated that the FY program has not helped her for the worse or the better, and that she just feels “normal”. It is worth it to mention that during my interviews with Aliyah and Waheeda, I got the impression that they both seemed to feel as though they had normal levels of stress in their lives; both of them had no difficulties socially with their peers, family members or teachers; there was no reported history or trauma, and they both described themselves as motivated, academically successful students prior to the FY intervention. Aliyah and Waheeda both spoke of the FY practices as helpful, but neither of them indicated that participating in FY had a particularly transformative impact.” P55
What do I take away from all of this?
I feel that meditation is a tool that can assist with alleviating stress or anxiety. But just like any other tool, you have to want to use it in order to get the job done. Though some students from the case study did not have reported high levels of stress, those reported to have high stress seemed to benefit from the experience.
Meditation is only a band aide to some children dealing with deeper complexities in their lives. For instance, unstable home environments may cause students to have poor behaviors and emotions. Meditation, though can help take away some stress, is not the cure for their unchosen lifestyles.
I do not think it should be mandatory for all students to participate in meditation practices. If students are behaving poorly then maybe incorporating some class wide mindfulness could benefit, but I think targeting detention rooms would be more impactful. I know there are schools specifically targeting children in detention, changing the standard practices of detention to provoke a change in student attitude. I have not found any studies to confirm the effectiveness on this and will update if I find anything new.
I think, however, stress-management should be incorporated in classes such as health or physical education. That way students who are not currently suffering from high stress have the opportunity to learn healthy coping mechanisms if something would happen to change. Meditation and mindfulness could be incorporated alongside other tools to be taught in the stress-management course.
Though, this is all completely my opinion of meditation in schools, I think it is a great step forward. Trying something new like meditation to see if student behaviors change could work out well in the long run. Not only does it seem to help students with their stress, but the teachers might want to stay at their jobs too!