… Close your eyes and find your way …Use the sound of your voice to locate yourself…
Vocal Migrations has connections with my interest in synaesthesia, combining sound and visuals, and how I’m drawn to looking at nature, and animal behaviour for inspiration. I have a fascination with how bats can use sound to see, and I had been trying to imagine what this could possibly be like… I was inspired to create a mobile audio device that people could use, with their own voice, to ‘echo-locate’ like bats… to navigate using their own vocal calls.
Movie recorded at Bedford Creative Arts’s Almanac festival in February 2013 and Mayfest, Bristol in May 2013.
Vocal Migrations is a participatory installation within which the audience are invited to navigate through a paper labyrinth wearing blindfolds. They rely on their ears rather than their eyes to navigate. Each participant is given a mobile device with a microphone to record their vocal calls. These vocalisations are then modified by the mobile device relating to their proximity to a wall or another person… Vocal music evolved and emerges from the paper labyrinth as more people enter and navigate.
Vocal Migrations is inspired by how Bats use sound to see by using echo-location. Bat echolocation is a perceptual system where ultrasonic sounds are emitted specifically to produce echoes. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes, the brain and auditory nervous system can produce detailed images of the bat’s surroundings. This allows bats to detect, localize, and even classify their prey in complete darkness.
Vocal Migrations aims to bring disciplines together, to widen participation in arts and to highlight the wonders of our natural world in creative new ways. The piece has been combined with a Cafe Scientifique hosted by BBC Radio4’s Quentin Cooper, a Bat Walk with Bedfordshire Bat Group and a series of exploratory all-abilities vocal workshops. Here is a short video of a work-in-progress performance following a series of workshops with Bedford Creative Arts Choir.
Technology for was developed by Matthew Olden and Tarim. Vocal Migrations was commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts in Autumn 2012, with support from the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol and additional funding from Arts Council England. Extra support was provided by MAYK for the installation at Mayfest, Bristol 2013.
During the research and development, Kathy experimented with Bedford Creative Arts choir, Bristol Feral Choir and professional vocalist Kerry Andrews. Kathy also had the unique opportunity to work with professor Gareth Jones at Bristol University Biological science department and Bob Cornes at Bedfordshire Bat Group.
Header photo by Pete Ashton.