Filtering perception

The process of answering the trans-space R&D enquiry ” How do we perceive our environment through sound & how can we interpret that for an audience?” has led me to make explorations into evolving the vocal ‘sounding’ methodology I use to create sonic responses to places. Developing it from the starting point of flexible direct vocal improvisation drawn from 360º deep listening interpreting an immediate soundscape to attempting to evolve a non-lexical vocabulary of phonemes that can be uttered to creatively interpet and express the strata of sensory input we receive as we experience a place. This new phase is going to take a while to unfold!

We perceive our environments, and the objects within them, through simultaneous filters with one filter often more heightened than the others depending on the individual’s physical condition & experience: sonic, tactile, smell, visual, memory, emotion etc.. Each of these clammers for attention when we’re consciously analysing an object or a place in order to interpret it in a specific medium. It becomes hard to choose which filter to pay attention to. This became very clear in the TRANS-SPACE workshop I led with musician Claire Docherty & 5 of the Artlink Central participant artists in Stirling. We’ve all worked together before, making vocal soundings in buildings and outdoor spaces such as Fourth Valley Royal Hospital & Stirling Castle, we have a complicity and fluidity with each other so it was natural to work together to take the next step. I’d been shopping for sounds, which was a first for me, looking for objects that would be likely to present a challenge but also stimulate us to produce variety of sound. It wasn’t important what the objects were so their purposes weren’t revealed or discussed. Our focus for the day was to embody raw input and process it into vocal sounds that expressed something about it. Investigating 4 objects over the course of the day, becoming aware of each person’s default filters, tuning in and out, one drawn to express rhythm, others focused on tactility or texture, materiality, aesthtic response, associated memory and inevitably imagination. Sharing our responses to form the beginnings of a common sonic vocabulary for sonifying objects. You can hear some clips of the resulting soundings and discussions here:




Taking these sounds and thoughts back down to Kent with me I made some solo attempts to respond to the some of the same indoor spaces Sam played Tabla in (the Weather has kept me from the outdoors, I’m dying to get back in the pine woods and subway to ‘sound’!). Digging down to the essence of the place was surprisingly harder without the group. I found myself defaulting to improvising the immediate soundscape rather than interpreting, as here in the stairwell with a dominant extractor sound;


until I began to think about the language of vOICe and how it describes a shape or surface and I stopped fighting the filters or thinking so hard and began interpreting the geometry & surfaces of the space as here with a distinctive oval skylight followed by an interpretation of a right angled wall and some steps leading up to a wide open doorway.

http://http:// There’s so much further to take this..

2 Responses to “Filtering perception”

  1. Michael Proulx Says:

    Do you think a new group of people would match the images to the sounds created by this group? Would the same correspondence extend to others?

  2. Jane Pitt Says:

    I don’t know! But it would be good to try it with another group and see if there are any commonilities or universal responses. This group work together so much it’s possible they are attuned to each other. best Jane