in sound mind


In Sound Mind is a demanding sonic artwork, playing pleasant soundscapes, such as bubbling brooks or wind through the trees, and then interrupting itself with screams, twisted laughter or the roar of a motorcycle. The sounds cascade relentlessly giving little time for the listener to achieve ‘aural space’.

In functional Magnetic resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies scientists gather data from the entire brain and all it’s activity. They then subtract layers of data relating to core functions such as breathing, heart beat, looking and so on, to leave data just relating to the small area they are studying – for example, empathic response. I was inspired by this and started to think about how subtraction naturally occurs subconsciously in every day life.

We can subtract unwanted ‘data’ from our environment when we focus our attention on something in particular – visually and aurally or even with smell, taste and touch. When we focus our attention the rest of the information is still being processed, it’s just attenuated, pushed to the background.

In Sound Mind is about trying to explore this sound subtraction ability – the focusing of aural attention. When familiar sounds are played in an unfamiliar way, in a space that has more sound than is comfortable, can this still happen? By moving about the space and adjusting to the sounds, some become familiar again – the brain aurally subtracting the parts you don’t want to hear, similar to eyes adjusting to a darkened room. But at times the work becomes overbearing and prevents the listener from focusing, provoking unease.

The work was accompanied by my talk about Art and Empathy and was created for Tricks of the Psych Trade a collaborative science / art event with psychologist Dr Emma Lawrence and artist Peter Myers.

Sound excerpt from In Sound Mind

Image by Peter Myers (click for larger version)

In Sound Mind was launched on 9th March 2006 as part of the Tricks of the Psych Trade event with Emma Lawrence and Peter Myers at The Science Museum’s Dana Centre. Sponsored by The British Psychological Society and part of NODE.London March 06 node.London March 06

The work was also shown in March at The Workstation, Sheffield, and in York at the launch of Science City York 2008 again as part of Tricks of the Psych Trade.

In Sound Mind sound installation Julie Freeman giving Art and Empathy talk Emma Lawrence and Julie Freeman