Use of Physicality
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All methods of sound reception require a level of physicality. However, the human hearing system is such an integral and natural part of life that it can be difficult to imagine the practice of hearing or listening as an especially physical process. Due to this, to create an explicitly physical experience from sound, one needs to work with ways to create a physical effect different to the inherent hearing system and is notable a physical experience. In this research, I refer to sound physicality as methods that fulfil and achieve this.
The most obvious method of giving a physicality is by interacting with the human physiology through sound resonance. The frequencies at the extreme ends of the human hearing spectrum can be felt as well as heard and if played at a high amplitude resonate directly with the body and become embodied.
An example of a low frequency
An example of a very high frequency
Please note: a high quality sound system or headphones are needed to fully appreciate both frequencies.
This sensation of feeling sound was explored in the works of Bernhard Leitner. A work by Leitner of particular note is Sound Chair (1975), in which a participant sits on a specially constructed chair with in-built speakers facing towards different locations on their body. Leitner talked about different parts of the body hearing and being receptacles to sound entering them (LaBelle 2006). He created the piece in such a way that different parts of the composition would play to different parts of the body. For example, low drones were played towards lower regions of the body and oscillated, moving to the upper torso (LaBelle 2006). Leitner also created a work called Sound Suit (1975), which, as apparent from the title, is a suit to be worn by the participant. The suit houses several speakers that point towards the body. Through this technique the sound is embodied or, in Leitner’s words, ‘a sound-space sculpture materialises, which accumulates and manifests itself in the body’ (Leitner n.d.).
07:04 - Leitner discusses his works which sound to the body
Gascia Ouzounian in an article for Contemporary Music Review in 2006 writes on uniting space, sound and embodiment stating:
‘Sound works designed for the body tend to bear a strong sense of ritual, conjoining physical spaces with their metaphysical complements. An encounter of real and imagined spaces, wrought in the body, produces alternating fields of vibration—at times beating positively to create an augmented awareness of self, spirit and surrounding; at other times clashing to reveal the limits of the body: that it is socially determined and determining; that it is an instrument of control; that, ultimately, it fails the user’ (Ouzounian 2006).