Sonic Womb soundtrack at Resolution

We are excited that our Sonic Womb soundtrack, created in 2016 for the Orrb display at the Brain Forum, based on our research of the in-utero acoustic environment, will be presented in the immersive environment of Goldsmiths’ SIML space as part of the Resolution series Friday 2nd of March 6pm-8pm:

We’re hiring

As announced in January, for our collaboration with UCL GIFT-Surg, we are looking for a brilliant research associate to work on modelling the Sonic Womb.

Here is the job description:

Research collaboration with UCL GIFT-Surg

We are delighted to announce that we are collaborating with GIFT-Surg at UCL on our research to increase our understanding of the role of sound in-utero in order to create the next generation of neonatal incubators:

New Research Collaboration between GIFT-Surg and Sonic Womb Productions

This is incredibly exciting for Sonic Womb as the GIFT-Surg project, which aims to push a major development in fetal surgery through better in utero imaging and surgical tools, spans an incredible array of disciplines and technologies which Sonic Womb will be able to draw on, from modelling (the main initial focus of our collaboration), to robotics, via 3D printing (of organ mimicking tissues), smart glasses and more.

We will also be contributing an updated Sonic Womb immersive experience to GIFT-Surg’s public engagement strategy… coming to you before the end of 2017 in London!

A Celebration

To celebrate the success of our first presentation of the Sonic Womb Orrb at the Brain Forum two weeks ago, Julian, Eric and I booked at Dans Le Noir, a restaurant in Clerkenwell where you are served dinner in a pitch black dining room. We wanted to experience what it was like to switch off the sense of sight. Would our hearing become somehow acutely heightened?

We were welcomed in an ante room and bar, and asked to select our menu (vegetarian, non vegetarian or “surprise”) and drinks. Then we were led to a corridor to wait for our blind guide to take us into the dining room. Our guide was the dynamic Fabio, from Palermo. He asked one of us to place our hand on his back, and the others to follow in the same way in a mini conga line as he took us into the darkest environment I have ever encountered. Not a single flicker of light for your eyes to latch onto. The noise of the other diners and their conversations was strangely unhelpful as a means of orientation to the size and shape of the room.

As we sat down, it took me some time for an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia to subside. The aggressive cacophony of diners around us gave rise to an irrational fear of being trapped in the dark forever. As I strained my voice to be heard above the noise level, it sounded to me as if it were disembodied. The three of us found ourselves seeking the reassurance of touch by linking our hands together across the table. After a while, and the distraction of the first dish being brought to the table, the habituation to the new environment set in.

If one had to decide which sense takes over from sight in this environment it would definitely be touch, not hearing. Trying to put food inside your mouth you find that using your fingers enhances the taste, as it helps define what the ingredient is. Simple ingredients are easily identified: orange zest, chocolate, strawberries. But any mixed ingredients become impossible to figure out, and indeed we know that food and drink are predominantly identified by smell and sight, not taste.

The most enjoyable part of the evening was at the end of the meal, when we remained the last table of diners, the noise of others having disappeared, and the waiters and waitresses started clearing up. Surrounded only now by the light sound of clatter and our own conversation it starting feeling more like the sound of one’s own home.


Day Two at the Brain Forum

Second day at the Brain Forum and I think we can confidently say we are one if the main attractions on the exhibitor’s level. Our booth is mobbed with people interested in experiencing the Sonic Womb and we have to set up a queuing system.

Reactions are incredibly varied:

“Interesting and shocking”

“A connection with the environment more truthful than the outside world”

“Meditative, calming, psychedelic”

“Awesome and curious”

Here is the impression of Hafida:

It was great for us to speak to people about their impressions just as they came out of the Sonic Womb Orrb, some of which we’d never have anticipated.

A young man said he experienced feelings of weightlessness. He felt he was coming back into his body when the filter was turned off at the end of the soundtrack.

One lady comes out crying. Her late father during her pregnancy used to tell her “be respectful of the baby in your womb, don’t fight with your husband, sing to your baby, and listen to music.” Hearing the simulated sound world around her viscerally brought back her father’s advice to her.

We are grateful to all those who shared their feedback with us. They will help us create great new soundtracks for the Sonic Womb Orrb.

First reaction to the Sonic Womb

Here we are today at the 2016 Brain Forum, a unique multidisciplinary annual gathering of neurologists, neuroscientists and engineers working on brain research. And we want to share with you the first reaction to the The Sonic Womb Orrb at the Brain Forum.

But going back 24 hours in time, Julian and I arrived yesterday afternoon to the  Swisstech centre on the campus of the engineering school EPFL in Lausanne. To our delight, the space was beautiful, letting in wonderful amounts of sunlight.

The shiny white Sonic Womb Orrb was waiting for us on our booth. Our friend Lee the designer had driven it himself from the home counties all the way to Lausanne in a van. Aurelie was already hard at work, cabling it up. Inevitable last minute issues had to be fixed (dimming the lights inside the Orrb, resolving a slight rattling noise…) but then we could get on to the fine tuning of the experience.

As the sound inside the Orrb distributes itself between speakers and transducers, to mimic the fetus’s experience of hearing through the body rather than the ears, it is important to get the balance of vibration and sound just right. Too much airborne sound doesn’t reflect the experience. Too much vibration distracts from the experience. This is where Aurelie’s sensibility as sound artists really enhances our scientific project. We can circumscribe quite well our knowledge of what is available for the fetus to hear and how the fetus hears but adapting that experience to a fully grown adult is more art that science.

So having fiddled endlessly with our soundtrack to make it near perfect, you can imagine how excited we were to have our first reaction to it.

Jasmine was the first non Sonic Womb Productions listener to enter the Sonic Womb Orrb. She was the conference’s medic, who was called to our booth when Aurelie cut her finger. Fittingly, today was Jasmine’s birthday.