Sound Waves was a Kaleido Arts bursary funded activity that allowed Mark to explore his ideas concerning the creative use of natural sounds. The most significant part of this project was a creative sound workshop he 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. In the workshop Mark encouraged the autistic children to respond to, and interact with, natural sounds played back through an eight channel sound system.
During the workshop, a loudspeaker was placed close to a girl who had cerebral palsy and the sound of a music box was played to her. Her carer 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 appeared not to like the artificial sound of the music box, but was drawn to the natural sound of the sea. However, she didn’t appear to be accessing a ‘personal event memory’ when listening to the sound of the sea, 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 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 workshop experience heavily influenced the ideas behind Mark’s Arts Council England supported activity entitled, the Wavelength Project, an arts/science collaboration that artistically and scientifically investigated how natural and artificial sounds and light affect the brain (2015-2017).
All images copyright Mark Ware