Category: Uncategorized

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!

Shower Thoughts in Self-Isolation: A Sonic Guided Journey

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.

Listen here:

Exploring ‘Noise’ vs ‘Sound’ Using Recordings from Outside

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

Birds chirping:

  1. Usual sound heard daily  
  2. Can also be defined as ‘bird song’
  3. Often used in meditation recordings, relaxation music
  4. Associated with the animal
  5. Can be tuned out or ignored
  6. Emotions evoked (examples): peace, calm

Cars driving:

  1. Usual sound heard daily  
  2. Can be tuned out or ignored, droning
  3. Can be alarming with horn honk, squeaky breaks, etc.  
  4. Emotions evoked (examples): annoyance

Listen and give feedback on your thoughts!

Refs:

Bragdon, C. (1971).

Noise Pollution: The Unquiet Crisis.

 PHILADELPHIA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Robert HP Platz and Frances Wharton

Leonardo Music Journal

Vol. 5 (1995), pp. 23-28

Ervin Laszlo

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Vol. 27, No. 2 (Winter, 1968), pp. 131-134

Siegmund Levarie

Critical Inquiry

Vol. 4, No. 1 (Autumn, 1977), pp. 21-31

Coessens, Kathleen, editor.

Sensorial Aesthetics in Music Practices. Leuven University Press, 2019. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvc771s4.

Evens, A. (2005).

 Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience. University of Minnesota Press.

Exploring Sonic Textures with Everyday Objects

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.

Listen to the sonic textures:

Photography during Quarantine

Before self-isolating to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus, I took a walk into the woods.

My equipment:

  1. Headphones
  2. Music
  3. Camera

I saw the flowers blooming, ducks in the creek, and leaves making their way back onto tree branches. The sun was bright and the wind was soft, making for a pleasant and peaceful walk.

I really can’t emphasize enough how free I felt deep breathing the spring air and walking around. No one was around, I could remain directionless!

Here are some photos I took during my journey:

My first 6 months in a PhD program (UK)

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…

October 2019

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.

 November 2019

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.

December 2019

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!

January 2020

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!

February 2020

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.

March 2020

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.

Final thoughts,

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 😊

Troubled Kids & Meditation in Schools

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:

  • Exploring self-awareness
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • Decreases aggression
  • 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!

Sources:

NBC10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2B8yRx5_mU

Mindfulness for youth: http://youthmeditation.org/mindful-youth/

UCLA dissertation by Sara King: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/57v9q3m8