Sound Waves was a Kaleido Arts bursary funded activity that allowed Mark Ware to explore his ideas concerning the creative use of natural sounds. The most significant part of this project was a creative sound workshop Mark gave at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2011. Ten, eleven year old children attended the workshop. Five were autistic and five had cerebral palsy. All of the children had one-to-one teachers/carers, and the children with cerebral palsy were all wheelchair users. During the workshop Mark encouraged the autistic children to respond to, and interact with, natural sounds played back through an eight channel sound system.
The autistic children were hyperactive, very intelligent and verbally expressive, but had short attention spans. In contrast, the children with cerebral palsy were unable to express themselves verbally and were significantly restricted by their physical conditions. Over the course of the workshop, the children with autism enthusiastically assisted Mark in engaging the others by holding and moving speakers in such a way as to bring about a positive physical and emotional response to sounds.
During the workshop, a loudspeaker was placed close to a girl who had cerebral palsy and the sound a music box was played to. Her teacher immediately realised that the girl didn’t like the sound and so it was switched off. Mark then played the sound of the sea, recorded in Teignmouth, Devon. The girl’s head turned toward the speaker and, as she turned her head, the fingers on one of her hands stretched out. Her carer said, ‘She likes that sound!’
The girl didn’t like the artificial sound of the music box, but was drawn to the natural sound of the sea. She didn’t appear to accessing a ‘personal event memory’ and so Mark assumed that she was not having thoughts such as, ‘I was at the beach last week…I like the sound of the sea‘. This suggested that that the girl may have been responding to a quality in the natural sound that we all respond to in ways that are not triggered by personal event memories.
The teachers/carers at the workshops commented on the positive outcomes and children’s responses. Although the teachers and carers had little previous experience in the arts, they were enthusiastic about the workshop and its results, and they showed great interest in potential further developments of this kind of work.
This work has all led to Mark’s latest Arts Council England supported activity entitled, the wavelength project, an arts/science collaboration that is artistically and scientifically investigating how natural and artificial sounds and light affect the brain.
All images copyright Mark Ware