Performing the Body and Space with Somatic Sound

Extended Abstract published  in Proceedings of the 21st International Symposium of Electronic Art, ISEA2015. 2015, Vancouver, Canada.
By Stahl Stenslie.
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The paper explores embodied experiences through moving, interactive and somatic sound. Somatic sounds presents a new approach as to how the body of the user can become a dynamic material to shape embodied, corporal sensations. The project represents both an incremental improvement to full-sphere, immersive spatial audio sound experiences and a new take on embodied sound letting users touch sound and feel space.

The paper explores how sound can be used to perform both bodily and spatial perceptions through a user-controlled, touch based system. It presents a novel approach as how to interactively involve the body of the user as a dynamic input in shaping embodied, corporal sensations through sound. Somatic sound can be defined as the live, embodied and multidimensional experience of sound as a corporal phenomenon. The Somatic Sound project represents an iterative development in the area and history of immersive sound experiences. From a technological viewpoint somatic sound is an installation where the user can corporally and intuitively control, shape and experience a three-dimensional audio space. The project is built upon a touch-based system that composes real time, interactive user experiences inside a 3-dimensional full-sphere sound field. A spherical montage of 25+ speakers frame the space, effectively wrapping a live sound cloud around the user. This set-up allows physically precise directions and volumes of the sound. The full-sphere sound encompasses all users present as a physical and spatial experience. The user can precisely move and compose the aural and spatial experience of the installation space by direct or indirect touch of a proximity sensitive, near-field sphere. This centrepiece of the installation is a sphere covered in pure gold. It functions as a touch sensitive, electronic skin.

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