Thursday, 23 August 2012

sonic baby

sonic baby
rebecca russell 

a series of 4 workshops at ArtPlay 
for pre-walking, pre-language babies from 4 months old
and parents 
exploring sound
june and july 2012

the aim was to create 
an environment
for parents to tune into the sonic world of their babies
and to enhance the sensory world of the everyday 
so that parents and babies might share in a continuing 
theatre of the everyday

central to this exploration is
the idea that babies 
provide a profound insight into the 
pre-language sensory world
we all inhabited once

babies provide an opportunity to 
re-awaken in adults 
a sensory response of childhood
which in turn
validates the experience of the baby
as parents tune into their child's
sensory world 

as a theatre maker
sonic baby
was an opportunity to
continue exploring ideas
around presence
and the shared creative space
between parents and their very young children

sonic baby workshops
soundscape of the everyday 
sensory world of babies
reawakening childhood senses in the adult
theatre of the senses 

inspired by: 
baby and parent exchange
parent artist insight 
art and philosphy

the initial 2 workshops in june were 
highly experimental in nature 

the 3rd and 4th workshops in july
applied some of what we learnt
to create a more controlled experience

sonic baby
workshops 1 and 2
june 2012

45 minute workshop
for 14 parents and 
babies (4 months to pre-walking)

the parents and babies entered a darkened space
filled with the sounds of morning bird calls
and a large tree projected onto the wall
blowing in the wind
an opportunity to begin to
tune into the babies response to the
sound and image around them

we went for a walk outside

listening and watching

parents were invited to take photos 
with their phones of the things around   
that their babies seemed to be listening to 
as a way of tuning into the sound around

what were the babies listening to?

what could they hear?

through the playground

up the lift
through the carpark
into the sonic baby tunnel

a time for some sound play 

for parents and babies

back to ArtPlay
for an experience of
sound and image from the
sonic baby walk
we had just been on

recorded on a zoom
photographed with iphones

experimenting with technology
that enabled us to playback a
recording of the walk and to
scroll through the images 
we had taken on our iphones as they were
projected onto the wall

i had imagined a space

of heightened sound and image of the every day

a space that allowed the babies to recognise 
sound and image they had just experienced

a space for parents and their babies to share in the wonder of the everyday sounds that surround us


this was much more of an experiment than i had anticipated
with many things not working the way i had predicted
with some major technical hitches 
inhibiting the sound 
and limitations with the projections
the theatrical environment i had hoped to create
back at ArtPlay
did not happen

with a sinking heart
i attempted to explain the ideas behind the experience the participants were meant to have
then i thanked and farewelled the brave souls who attended

the workshops provoked strong and mixed reactions
and there were some quite bewildered parents

there were elements of the workshops that I felt did work
I was inspired by the stillness and the awareness of the parents as we walked and listened
I was inspired by the sound I heard as we walked
I was inspired by the individuality and the similarities between babies
I was inspired by the singing and the sounds of the babies
When we gave them the space to be heard

I was inspired enough to want to
try sonic baby again

(i apologise here to the parents and babies who bravely took part.
i can only hope that you experienced a small moment, a moment of awareness, a moment of joy or a consciousness of being present with your baby that may have made your journey into ArtPlay that day worthwhile... and to ArtPlay thanks for inviting me back!)

and i wonder has the sound in your world changed since 
sonic baby?

sonic baby tunnel

below is a short film created from images and sounds from the first sonic baby walk

it is closer to the environment i was hoping to create for the participants of the workshop

the film was used as part of sonic baby workshops 3 and 4

put your headphones on and have a listen...

thanks to:
Amie Sexton - voice
Wayne Parker - sound mix

sonic baby
workshops 3 and 4
july 2012:

my major rethinking was around

sound and

how could i create a more theatrical environment?
a sense of entering into a different space
a space of heightened awareness
for the adults
and the babies

i recreated the space
redesigned the sound
and rethought the image

prior to the workshops
i say with sound designer Wayne Parker
and re-mixed the sound recordings from the first sonic baby walks
and made 2 short films for projecting
with the sound and image from the first two workshops

(sonic baby tunnel, above, is one of those films)

I hired a dome
made with a bent timber frame 
and a canvas shell

the workshop…

we gathered in the dome
listened to bird calls 
shadows of birds floated on the floor

together we watched the film of the first sonic baby walk
projected onto the dome

sonic baby walk

put your headphones on and have a listen...

[having trouble embedding video.
in the meantime watch sonic baby walk on vimeo here]

the babies looked for the sound
the image didn't hold them
too high?
too far away?
not real?
not familiar...

i was fascinated by the sounds we heard together

the sounds we all seemed to tune into
and the sounds that passed 

we went for a walk

found space in the playground
to stop and listen

went up the lift

to the sonic baby tunnel
time for sound play
and this time... 
time to listen to the babies
and they did sing

back to ArtPlay

and into the dome
we watched and listened to 
the sonic baby tunnel film

it wasn't perfect but there were some lovely moments
and i hope the parents felt a little less like lab mice!

one mother's response:

the sound was too loud 

(technical hitch) 
quite an unpleasant experience for the mother.
she said it made her realise 
how noisy our babies world is
and how 
they so often are just by the 
immediate environment

a profound insight 

how can i create a similar response 

without it being distressing?

there is no need for a new mother to feel distressed

at an arts event
even for a profound insight

a great question to ponder...

to the beautiful young mother and her baby 

who offered that profound comment
thank you 
and I really am sorry for the volume

and i wonder has the sound in your world changed since 

sonic baby?

(more detailed reflections on sonic baby here
including the difference between a workshop and an experiment)

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