Acousmatic Sounds

Theoretical and Contextual exploration into acousmatic sounds:

How to use them?

Their function and effect

How they can be applied to my sound mix to fulfil my intention?

Similar to Horror films, acousmatic sounds are of pertinent importance for my project as since there is no visual component to the work, all sounds are acousmatic in the sense that they do not have a corresponding visual that puts them into context.

According to theory, when exposed to acousmatic sounds, viewers project their own personal memories and fears onto the sound, signifying their evocative power and the ominous possibilities they present artists. In the context of film, a strong example is classic suspense film Kiss Me Deadly where character is only identified through sound and the villain is visually not shown until the closing scene of the film. The effect of this is that the audience are kept in the dark over key information until the very end, building tension and suspense throughout the narrative arc culminating in a crescendo. This idea provides plenty of scope for each viewer of the film to conjure their own image of the character through the sound and although these sounds are the same, each person will have a distinctly individual and personal image as a result of distinctive personal memories, a unique imagination and perception of the sound.

Relating this to my project,

crescendo, narrative arc – what information am I going to hold back? visual component – what is revealed – maybe reveal her face at end ???

Extending this further, I will now conduct a more detailed study into how specific sounds and structures are utilised in film to create suspense, engage an audience and convey the story. These are techniques and approaches that can be applied to my sound mix in order to enhance the immersion of the sound, the effect that it has on telling a story and cultivating a suspenseful, 

Looking at this from a more critically theoretical perspective, Jérôme Peignot is responsible for acousmatic sounds – how they are relevant to my work conceptually and practical examples – film and non film – examples of how I am using these techniques already and ideas for progression 


practical examples

defend originality – squeezed by shadows – not personal  or immersive – no tangible element – simulate this experience and make people feel connected to it

how my work builds on theory – underpin everything I do – how no other work has contextually demonstrated this theory and how I attempt to explore it in an artistic way

move away from science – physical – tangible – interact – greater level of engagement – utilises senses


Salome Voegelin Sound Art Theory

In this post, I am going to delve into Salome Voegelin’s theoretical ideas and study surrounding listening, Sound art and experience, analysing her philosophical and exhaustive exploration of these notions. Further to this, I will critically examine how these ideas and specific sound works which embody such concepts can challenge, shape and support my project development.
This is a crucial part of this project as theory is the underpinning of practice, and developing a strong and succinct understanding of the theoretical concepts surrounding the themes that I am tackling throughout the project. One of the most central concepts is the potential that sound has in terms of shaping our perception of space, delving into how audio can evoke an experiential, emotional response in the viewer.
As a Philosopher, Writer, Theorist and perhaps most importantly a Sound Artist, Salome Voegelin is a key critical, theoretical reference in this discussion. This is because she is a pioneer for how we can deeply engage with sound and the power of a sonic experience on our individual, personal thoughts and feelings, and how sound has a monumental impact in terms of cultivating a physical and emotional experience. 
‘Sound narrates, outlines and fills, but it is always ephemeral and doubtful’ (Voegelin, 2010, p. 5)
This quote touches on various ideas, concepts and themes that are deconstructed, analysed and debated in her writing surrounding Sound Art and the listening experience. This is that Sound
‘As soon as sound has arrived, it has gone, and yet it fills every inch of space, seeps out from underneath doorways and through walls, surrounding us in an invisible presence’
In this phenomenologically based study, Voegelin additionally explores and analyses the notion of silence, arguing that ‘when there is nothing to hear, so much starts to sound’, hypothesising that silence has the potential to trigger an auditory imagination. Therefore, enabling an audience to contribute to what they hear, blurring the boundary between reality and fiction in the way that subtlety and detail are accentuated, hence facilitating viewers to contribute to a shifting reality.
This is a key point which suggests that through silence, listeners are encouraged to recognise themselves, shaping the work into a personal, unique, bespoke experience. This is a key theory in terms of conceptually progressing my work and underpinning decisions that have been derived from the testing process. An example of this is the outcome of the latest critique into my project (20th March) where my peers and tutor fed back that inserting more silences (narrative gaps) into the experience would encourage participants to actively participate in terms of stimulating the use of their own imagination to fill in these gaps to cultivate their own individual personal experience. 
‘Silence is not the absence of sound but the beginning of listening’ (Voegelin, 2010, p. 83)
This quotation is incredibly simple yet effective in embodying a succinct message that silence in fact triggers internal sounds that are produced from within rather than those externally. In this sense, there is the most noise during such silence periods and this is a notion that I definitely want to build on in my piece in terms of enabling participants to cultivate their own individual, bespoke, personal experience. Theoretically, this quotation is suggestive of the subtlety of sound which can our own auditory imaginations which in fact are all part of what we hear; the only difference is it is bespoke and unique. This is exemplified in how simple details and movements are amplified as the individuals perception of reality is challenged, cultivating feelings of doubt and uncertainty.
This is relevant to my installation in the sense that
Building on this notion, there is a suggestion here that silence, in fact, an experience that is shaped by both the sonic context and the material conditions (Home-Cook, 2014). For example, from what and when has the silence emerged and what are the implications of this in terms of the sonic context and the material conditions of the space in which it is occurring.
In terms of the physical constitution of the sonic, sound pervades from a two dimensional listening experience to a experiential, immersive encounter. A contextual reference that explores this idea is Wedding Night, a performance installation which experiments with this notion of the ‘transient nature of sound art‘, based in a woodland where the artist continually shouted out ‘I love you’. This live event was manipulated in post production with the addition of augmented environmental sounds, enticing, exciting and intriguing the audience, encouraging them to ‘imagine the goings on in the forest‘. The way in which this piece demands an interaction, viscerally engaging the audience, triggers a sensorial immersion which extends beyond a two dimensional, intellectual reading. In this way, the audience are empowered to be producers of the sound through their individual, bespoke innovative listening. This is relevant to my work on a conceptual level as the way in which audience members are empowered to construct their own experience reflects my intention to simulate a physically immersive, experiential engagement with her experiences, but also, simulating their own experience in response to the installation, pushing the boundaries of their imagined sense of time and space.
Further to this, Voegelin’s theoretical sound work incorporates analysis of how sounds transform objects into dynamic, fluid and ephemeral entities, investigating sound as a physical phenomenon. This notion links in with key objectives of my project as sound is utilised to cultivate a physical, visceral experience that participants ‘feel’ rather than hear, relating to the Scientific research that Sleep Paralysis experiences are predominantly physical experiences. As although visual and auditory hallucinations are a significant part of such experiences, Haptic Visuality theory states that a physical interaction and perception through haptics is the most effective and powerful of the senses.
In the context of the experiential, Voegelin contests that ‘sound is heard in the mind‘, and that as a result of this, ‘sound shares a relationship with our consciousness’. This is such a significant theory in terms of gaining a critically conceptual knowledge of how sound shapes experience through a variety of media forms including anthropology, film and sound art.
Experienced, perceived, and interpreted in your own personal manner, and station in life. Each experience is unique
Backing up decision for sound to be medium to explore state of the subconscious and for a wide and diviersied audience to tap into one persons subconscious state

With regards to hearing sound, Michael Brewster describes a similar sensation to the altered state of consciousness present in the ‘storylistening trance’: ‘Walking through it [sound] in its resonant state provides an experience similar to perusing a landscape but from the inside, with all of your body instead of from the outside with just your eyes.’ (Brewster 1999: 102)

Brewster describes his experience of sound as not merely listening, but feeling and being with all your body. This description of listening to sound as if perusing a landscape could be compared to the sensation of being in the imaginary reality one experiences when listening to stories. This loss of perspective of space and time allows us to feel a profoundly different reality to our normal everyday lives

This is a brilliant theory in terms of sound evoking a physical reaction in us – sound is right media to cultivate a physical and emotional experience

Thus, both the sounds of the described event and the aural presence of the storyteller interplay with one another to create, as Rattigan suggests, a ‘virtual reality’.
Voegelin, S. (2010). Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art. 1st ed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.

Salome Voegelin – Sound Art Theory

Salome Voegelin – Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. This publication is a phenomenological study of the aesthetics of listening, where Voegelin explores the ephemeral quality of the sonic. This links in with my work in relation to why this is an immersive SOUND piece rather than a multimedia, visual based installation. 

In this study, Voegelin examines the way in which we engage with sound, particularly delving into listening as a perceptual engagement, as she claims that ‘the listener is always in a position of uncertainty‘.

Voegelin explores the ways in which sound seamlessly conjures up imagery,
emotion and atmospheres but can only be held onto through remembering its characteristics in our minds. The unique, powerful quality inherent in Sound Art is within the relationship between the listener and the sonic material in question. Extending this further, Voegelin engages in the discussion that through this process, ‘the listener creates the piece anew‘, illustrating this idea that sound conjures a personal, unique interpretation. Building on this evocative concept, sound is one of the most intrinsically emotive, evocative and powerful senses in terms of influencing, shaping and impacting our subconscious.
In this study, I will examine, analyse and delve into the way Voegelin’s theory forms the underpinning and is informed in my practical work, and other contextual references. 
Contextual Reference: Victoria Karlsson – Sound Artist investigating the emotional and subjective potential of Sound Art in terms of producing both an inner and outer experience, hence representing diverse and rich aspects of our consciousness and subconscious states. Her work seeks to question, confront and challenge how site specific sound environments shape and evoke experiences of different spaces. This is relevant in terms of these theoretical concepts and my project as a whole since the intention of the work is to explore the relationship between Sound Art and spaces of consciousness, similar to the way in which I intend to use Sound Art to target, evoke and experience the subconscious state. 
Scores for Silence is an exhibition that presents Karlssons work comprising of an installation which investigates the relationship between memory and sound, exploring the way in which ‘sound resides not only in the world around us but also within our own inner thoughts and memories‘. Objects are featured at the heart of this piece to trigger and evoke feelings, memories, thoughts and emotions that are unique and personal to individual audience members.

This piece is a relevant contextual reference in terms of the development of theoretical ideas which form the basis of my work as this installation delves into the subjective and emotional aspects of sound as both an inner and outer experience’. Karlsson does this by studying inner sounds that are manifested in thoughts and memories that only exist in viewers imaginations, representing the bespoke, personal quality of ‘imaginary‘ sound types prevalent in emotion and memory that can be overlooked when compared to outer sounds. Extending this notion even further, Karlsson investigates how these imaginary, inner sounds affects, shape and influence our experience of outer, physical sounds. Thus, what impact do our personal memories, emotions and thoughts have on our experience of physical sound, and our surroundings. This is connected to a key objective of my project in terms of studying the way in which personal memories, emotions and experiences affect and determine how individuals engage in a physical experience.

This resonates with theoretical notions underpinning my project as sound is applied and explored with the intention of cultivating an emotional engagement between individual participants and the story of her Sleep Paralysis experiences, hence exploring the potential of the sonic in terms of shaping a physical, bespoke, emotional experience.
Extending these ideas further, this taps into the question of how sound is experienced corporeally through a bodily engagement, which links in with the key intention of my installation. I will be conducting investigatory theoretical and conceptual research, backed up with critically analysed contextual references, that explore and examine this notion that Sound is interpreted by our physical selves. I will then build on this by challenging how sound presents more complex and insightful approaches and methods for filmmakers to tap into the subconscious state. An example of a filmmaker who explored this concept is Hitchcock as he utilised sound as a key component in his work to ‘instil in their audiences a particularly corporeal experience’.
Contextual Reference: The Forty Part Motet – Janet Cardiff
  • A fourteen minute Sound Installation which explores a sonic experiential response
  • It comprises of forty high-fidelity speakers positioned on stands in a large oval configuration throughout the Fuentidueña Chapel’
  • Visitors are encouraged to walk among the loud speakers and hear the individual voices, evoking a sense that they are surrounded in a choir of forty voices/live performer
  • The audio component is split into an 11 minute segment which comprises of singing, and a three minute section which is an intermission. In terms of the singing, it is the audio from forty singers performing Spem in Alium Nunquam habui, played back through the forty loudspeakers.
  • The arrangement and layout of the speakers is also very important to examine – they are positioned in a large circle so that when the audience walk across the space, they are given a unique combination of sound and harmony at different positions, cultivating a bespoke experience of this installation. One possible way to experience the work is to ‘stand in the middle of the installation and hear all forty voices as they unify into one musical piece’
  • Alternatively, by moving closer to an individual speaker, participants cultivate an intimate connection and encounter of the installation with a specific voice. Thus, representing how this installation produces varying yet equally powerful ways to interact with the work. By doing so, individuals are able to hear a fresh, unusual and unique interpretation of sound in terms of richness and depth. 
  • You can hear the sound move from one choir to another… and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound hits you”
    • This quotation describes the process of surround sound as the audio travels between the speakers and the way they are positioned in the space. It also touches on the way the sound produces a visceral, corporeal effect that is key to the objectives of my project.
  • This piece is an example of how Cardiff uses sound to create emotional experiences based on space and intimacy – I really like the way in which it is up to the individual participant the type of experience and interaction they have the work – for example, they can create a very intimate interaction with one voice/speaker in the installation, or, they can engage in a considerably more harmonic experience. This relates to ideology from the semantic field of chance and control (which I have previously analysed in this blog), in the sense that viewers are empowered to choose the way in which they interact with and experience the experimental piece
  • This piece is an investigation of how sound is a spatial form and the way the installation, both physically and emotionally, connects our bodies to the sounds that we hear, and a result of this, facilitates us ‘to climb inside the music‘. My response to this element of the work is the way sound is so deeply entrenched in our subconscious states and can be used to cultivate a visceral experience that connects to our physical selves. Hence, Cardiff creates a physical relationship between the sound and the audience, enabling a further dimension of engagement with the choir.
  • An additional element to this piece is the way that participants can observe other individuals engaging in the experience, producing a shared gallery experience. The beauty of this aspect of the installation is that you are all immersed and contained in the same space.
  • The volume varies between the speakers, cultivating a richer, more enchanting experience. For example, some speakers contain children’s voices which have connotations of being angelic and are of a softer, gentler, quieter amplitude. As a result of this, these speakers contained a combination of children voices in unison to add more power and impact. 
  • By closing your eyes and immersing yourself into total darkness is really powerful as it heightens your other senses, and your imagination. For example, the sound is heightened and has a much more effective impact as the visual sense is removed. 
  • There are eight groups of five speakers positioned together which transforms the piece into a journey type installation and helps simplify the structure considering the amount of speakers. There is also logic to this as they are arranged that for each speaker, the sounds/voices are positioned from low to high pitch in ascending order of each soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass. This gives participants an indication of how to explore and discover the work however it is totally up to the individual where they stand which in turn produce a completely unique and bespoke encounter of the sound hence the installation. There is also a huge degree of independence, self discovery, exploration and experimentation in this approach as it is not set out to individuals how they should experience the work which enhances the potential for an audience to move throughout the space of their own accord and at their own leisure, cultivating an intimate relationship with the piece. 
  • Theoretically, this installation explores the potential that sound, audio and music has in transporting ‘the listener beyond the ordinary world we inhabit, to connect us with something larger than ourselves‘. Thus, this piece uses sound to influence an audiences perception of space, transporting them into another space purely through sound. Building on this further, this installation seeks to investigate how sound physically constructs and shapes a space sculpturally.
  • By positioning yourself up close to an individual speaker, you will feel a piercing and high amplitude sound that is full of intensity and character. However, positioning yourself in the middle cultivates a peaceful, gentle sound and experience. This piece encourages viewers to experiment with the ways in which they can interact with the work based on what is best for them; in this way, it is a very experimental and evocative installation. There is no set time period or structure to the piece, henceforth, it empowers participants to explore it in their own way. I am inspired and fascinated by the way in which sound physically constructs a space in a very sculptural way, so that individuals can physically feel the sculpture, structure and shape of the space. This exemplifies one of the primary ideas that I have been exploring where sound has the potential to shape our perception of space.
  • Resembling a concert in many ways, this piece seeks to challenge some of these associated ideas in opening up the installation to a more contemporary and unique way of perceiving sound by offering an audiences the opportunity to experience sound from every single viewpoint. It is a multi dimensional way of engaging with the sound. 
  • The design is very simple and minimalistic but at the same time effective and powerful, providing evidence to validate the idea that less is more.


Evaluation of how this relates to my project development:

  • Multiple speakers are positioned in an oval arrangement cultivating an atmosphere of immersion for participants – different positions within this configuration create diverse experiences of the installation – offering individuals opportunities to explore and engage in a multitude of ways
  • It is a physical journey and the way that visitors actively engage with this journey hence the installation is up to the individual – they are given full choice as to where they stand/how they weave through the work  – although a shared gallery experience, it is personal, bespoke and individual the ways in which participants explore and investigate the piece
  • There is an overwhelming feeling as the sound hits you – it is visceral, physical, evocative and powerful – this links to the physical and emotional impact of sound – feeling the physical impact of sound is a key objective of my project, enhanced by the recent decision to embed the individual, surround speakers in the bed and cultivate an immersive, physically engaging, bodily experience where participants will be able to feel both the physical and emotional effects of the sonic. 
  • Visitors are encouraged and empowered to make their own journey and find their own place within the space – there is no guidance or set of experiences as to how they should experience the installation – This is an idea that I really like as it enables each participants to engage in a bespoke, unique encounter of the installation that is unconstructed, uncensored and raw. This relates significantly to my project ideology in terms of the theme Night Demons which is incredibly intimate and personal to the individual and the intention of the work is for one persons experiences of the 
  • The way in which the volume varies between the speakers cultivates a richer, more enchanting experience – this is an idea that really resonates with my project in terms of having different speakers producing a different combination of sounds, hence each part of individuals body will experience a diverse and unique mix, shaping and volume of audio. This enables sound to travel through the body as opposed to being a static, stationary experience. This suits my subject matter as night terrors, particularly Sleep Paralysis, is a multi sensory immersive experience and therefore doesn’t just affect one part of our bodies. My intention is to entice and entrap participants into the bed, hence ‘her’ Sleep Paralysis experiences which are personified in the bed. I will definitely use this technique in my sound mix by focusing on experimenting with volume automation, particularly in relation to the surround movement of specific sounds such as the cat or wave to cultivate a spatial, immersive experience. 
  • This links in to the technique utilised where, by positioning close to an individual speaker, you will feel a piercing and high amplitude sound that is full of intensity and character

Next Steps:

  • Further in-depth contextual research and practical application ideas
  • Additional theoretical work into the evocative power of sound and how the sonic can be utilised to shape perception of space
  • Further to this, contextual and theoretical analysis into how the sonic can cultivate a bodily aligned, physical experience 




  • Freud is a key theorist for my project as in his theoretical work, he argues that art brings subconscious desires and ideas to the forefront, hypothesising that dreams are tools that unlock our subconscious states hence reveal our repressed feelings, emotions, thereby breaking down the barrier between reality and dreams.
  • It is this thesis that is intrinsically important in relation to my installation as it explores and questions the ways in which night terrors reveal such involuntary and uncontrolled feelings and desires, by representing them across various forms of multi media. This reveals a vulnerable, personal, intimate facet to an individual that this installation seeks to tap into, as my work is an alternative, experiential approach to representing the subconscious state.
  • It is, essentially, a conscious surveillance of unconscious acts that not even the individuals themselves are fully aware of. A further example of the way in which Freud’s work as enabled me to conceptually develop throughout this exploration process is the notion that the unconscious consists of intensified emotions and instincts responding to ideology from the semantic field of automatism which explores the way in which involuntary, uncontrolled, inherent actions and processes emerge during our subconscious states. We have no control of them; my installation idea is largely based around this as it explores and portrays night terror experiences that are out of our control, responding to Freud’s theoretical work amongst surrealism and tapping into the subconscious. Freud states that nightmares are not properly understood or represented in Contemporary Western Civilisation – highlighting the appetite for better understanding and awareness of this issue that is almost a taboo. 
  • Psychologist Sigmund Freud, leader of this theory, explored the reasons why we dream. He states that our subconscious is a space in which we ‘release our repressed socially unacceptable desires’ [1]; therefore he argues that sleep enables the ‘unconscious’ to become ‘conscious’ blurring the boundary. This resonates with my project as the crux of my work is the conscious surveillance of unconscious acts, as participants are immersed into an environment and experience where they physically and emotionally engage with Carla MacKinnon’s Sleep Paralysis encounters. Thus, giving them an experience which taps into an individuals subconscious state and providing an artistic, experiential representation of a condition that is very Scientifically documented, and therefore, for those of us who don’t suffer from Sleep Paralysis, it seems a notion that is very disconnected to us. This installation seeks to dispel this myth as a lot of the facets of Sleep Paralysis experiences are in fact relatable, identifiable and universal. Henceforth, this installation additionally gives participants the opportunity to further tap into and access their subconscious states through the simulation of this experience.
  • Studying Freud has given me a greater insight into the content and functionality of our conscious states in order to portray them accurately through sounds. For example, the unconscious consists of intensified emotions and instincts, unusual and bizarre are motifs, it utilises various senses, distorting time and space (which can be reflected in experimentation with pace, rhythm of sound e.t.c).


Freud inspired contextual work:


  • A series of multi media installations relating to the unconscious within surrealism
  • Focuses on space – questions the space of our subconscious states
  • Emphasis on light to reveal ideas using visual mediums of Photography, X ray and drawing
  • Exhibited in an intimate space, listening the conscious to a personal, emotive idea
  • In ‘Spaces of the Unconscious’, space is used to represents the two states of consciousness. For the conscious state, the piece is well lit, illustrating domestic furniture which has a warm tone in addition to personal belongings. This contrasts to the darkened space which presents the subconscious.
  • The use of lighting in this context represents the mystery, ambiguous nature of our subconscious minds. This lighting also lends itself to abstract stylistic techniques in creating fantastic imagery which acts as a social or cultural comment as well as forming surreal juxtapositions which accentuate the contrasting nature of both the subconscious and conscious states. The darkened space also refers to the subconscious as fantastic and fictitious, connoting an ambitious, melancholic ambience. It also enhances the surreal quality, likening the pieces to dream ideology.
  • This work relates to my installation both on a thematic and aesthetic level as the space is Freud’s bedroom which is divided into two areas. From a lit conscious area housing Freud’s domestic furniture and personal belongings, the viewer passes through a membrane to a darkened area representing the unconscious. Here, through closer inspection via small apertures, the contents of the mounted boxes are revealed. Imaginative spatial dimensions are explored in each scenario where the participant is taken on a journey into a world of the dream or the unconscious. 
  • The installation questions the way in which the thresholds between the conscious and the unconscious are negotiated and how the viewer is impelled into spaces that are simultaneously real and imaginary. This ties in with my project in the sense that participants are immersed into someone else unconscious space and state, using light, sound and physical elements to simulate such experiences.
  • This work has inspired and enabled me to shape and develop my work in an innovative, fresh, imaginative, critical way. For example, the way in which she combines traditional forms of media with technology inspires me in terms of questioning and investigating the subconscious space by targeting the human imagination. This work is also purely about experience as opposed to defining the space of the unconscious, predominantly leaving meaning to individual interpretation.



THEORY: Sound for Film

Why study this theory and how does it relate to my project?

Although my project is categorically not a film, it sits in between two theoretical areas of sound for art and sound for film, as the piece is, at it’s heart, a storytelling project which employs an alternative approach to conveying an individual’s experiences of the effects of her Sleep Paralysis encounters through a physically and emotionally stimulating experience which is both visceral and intimate. 

As a storytelling project, it is essential that I have a critical, thorough and extensive knowledge of how sound can be manipulated and used to tell stories in an effective, emotion driven and real way. This is because, like the camera, sound is used to shape our storytelling experience. This is crucial in terms of being able to apply this theoretical knowledge to my practical work; for instance, how sound is utilised in psychological films such as Hitchcock’s work to create a strong sense of foreboding. A key aspect of this is the way in which sound is not bought in at the point of action which will be advantageous in terms of my project development, transforming it from a piece that is typically of a show and tell style, to a track that cultivates an immersive experience. In this study, I will critically analyse specific films and accompanying theories, those that both successfully and unsuccessfully utilise sound to create specific effects, convey emotion and tell raw, authentic and powerful stories. This is because, like the camera, sound is used to shape our storytelling experience. Although these are films, the storytelling focal point remains the same and this exploration will enable me a greater insight into how to utilise sound to convey the story in a creative, emotive, evocative, experiential way. 

Building blocks of sound for filmmaking:

In film, it is essential to be able to separate the three distinctive forms of sound that populate film; these are music, sound effects and dialogue.

  1. DIALOGUE: (Human voice) 

This is the basis of the narrative and tells the story, expressing feeling and emotion. The very texture of the voice provides character. Narration (which is what I will be using in my installation) is non-diegetic as the sound is used without a corresponding visual reference as the dialogue doesn’t belong to any person in the frame. Dialogue authenticates the narrator as an individual, giving them a genuine, real, raw quality rather than that of a character, enabling an audience to identify and relate to them. Story wise, dialogue is expressive in terms of feeling and emotion, conveying human, candid, heartfelt character. This is extended beyond the words to the tone of the voice, developing texture, depth and character. When the elements of voice texture and character interact effectively, the result is a character the the audience relate to and engage with to the extent that they stop being a character and start being a human beingThis is an interesting point that has definitely arisen throughout this project particularly in terms of Primary Research as during my interviewing process, it was important to consider the voice, tone and texture of the speaker and select one that individuals will engage with (central to my project aims) and that feels natural, genuine and relatable, accentuated by the intimacy, severity and rawness of the subject matter. For instance, during the initial stages of this research, one individual that I interviewed had a distinctly engaging, rich and detailed story which appealed to me in terms of it’s multi sensory potential in addition to her dedication to my project. However, one of the main critique that derived from the proposal presentation stage of the pre production phase was that her voice sounded am dram, constructed, artificial and was ultimately disengaging. 

The human voice contains three primary sonic attributes that are essential to understand in order to maximise it’s effect particularly in terms of evoking emotional depth. These are:

  • Volume – loud volume conveys emotional intensity – the connotations of a loud volume is an intense emotion – anger, pain, passion – quieter volumes are softer and symbolise more considered emotional responses – tenderness and fear are two examples
  • Pitch – This relates to a sounds frequency – although this quality is mainly associated with music or sound effects, it has a huge impact in terms of dialogue and voice. For example, a deep voice implies authority and power. 
  • Vocal Characteristics – The voice is incredibly evocative – the way a person speakers is very telling in terms of their character – tone, class, cultur


These characteristics can be applied to sound effects in the same way. For example, in terms of pitch, a low frequency sound that has a deep, rich tone has connotations of ambiguity and mystery. Whereas, high pitched sounds have the potential to signify anxiety and drama. Non-diegetic sounds, which are what I will be using in my piece, are central in conveying a certain mood and atmosphere. It is very common for films to utilise separately recorded sounds rather than the actual soundtrack that accompanies the visuals, as this can be more convincing, realistic and effective in shaping the narrative.


Background music is utilised for emotional and atmospheric purposes presenting an underlying tone and specific ambience to a scene or film. This type of music can also be used as a technique to foreshadow an upcoming event or development in the narrative.

Thematically (Using sound to create suspense):

In terms of psychological thrillers and horror films, aurally constructed elements are the main driving force for cultivating a suspenseful ambience due to it’s a ability to evoke emotion and richness compared to more traditional film sound tracks. This is predominantly due to the fact that acousmatic sound is used to enhance suspense, tension and ambiguity in the viewer by foreboding particular emotions, effects and events.

‘If you watch a horror film with the sound turned off, it isn’t scary’

The reason that sound is so crucial to the horror genre specifically is that ‘scary movies trigger more of a visceral, automatic, bodily reaction‘. This resonates so strongly with my installation, proving that the decision, to make it a purely sound and vibration driven piece instead of fusing these components with visual elements such as light and video which has been negated to serve the intention, was such a wise one. My project seeks to evoke both a physical and emotional engagement with the experience that at the heart of the piece. Therefore, this validates the importance of sound as the basis of the media used for this project.

Non-Diegetic Sound is the type of audio that is utilised in film to evoke suspense, tension, unease, anxiety and anticipation in it’s audience. This is because unlike diegetic sound, this type of audio is added in post production, and therefore manipulated with the specific intention of evoking and cultivating suspense and tension. For example, various tools and techniques are applied, by Post Editors, such as experimenting with volume automation, filters, reversing and stretching of sound in addition to layering effects. These devices are utilised to maximise effect with the intention of drawing the audience into the scene, using typical film techniques to build a gradual crescendo, immersing them in to the story as if they are participants as opposed to viewers. In a nutshell, non-diegetic sounds are described as ‘messages from the filmmaker directly to their audience’, manifested in the form of symbolism.  

Examples of these non-diegetic sounds that are used to great effect in Horror Films specifically include eerie footsteps, tense piano/orchestra music, big bangs, slamming of doors, water running and a telephone ringing. These are effective and powerful in this context due to the fact that they are atmospheric and evoke emotion and feeling, particularly in terms of tension, suspense and anxiety and fear; the key staples in Horror Cinema. These sounds play on ideas of gradual crescendos, or alternatively, a sharp sound that is utilised as a way to shock, instilling fear and anxiety in the audience. These sounds serve to evoke an emotional, physical reaction from the audience and are therefore identified as atmospheric sound. This represents the reason why these powerful sounds are the crux of my installation as they are evocative and experiential which is the essence of the project. Furthermore, in order for sound to produce a physical experience, audio needs to be manipulated and symbolic as opposed to literal as the focus is on feeling rather than understanding. It is all about connotation, not denotation, when it comes to experience and emotion – utilising sound in a way that heightens the senses, eliciting both a physical and emotional reaction. This is an idea which is extensively illustrated in the Horror genre as the very essence of it’s film’s is ‘eliciting a negative reaction from viewers by playing on their fears‘. Practically exemplified, rain isn’t utilised to make the audience think about rain, but it is applied to a particular scene or moment in the film to act as a symbol for feelings such as anxiety or melancholy. In this way, sound is used as a metaphor to evoke and simulate emotion. Extending this example further, the slow and gradual build of intensity of the rain signifies an escalating sense of tension, suspense, uncertainty and pressure. Although my work isn’t solely intended to simulate a negative emotional response from the audience, it is inherent in terms of my subject matter as nightmares and terrors feature largely within this genre as by their very nature, they elicit such emotions that are intrinsic to Horror. 

Analysis of Example of atmospheric sound used in film to evoke emotion:

Contextual Reference: Referred to as ‘The Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock is one of the most famous and acclaimed directors and filmmakers in cinematically producing films that impact minds, memories and emotions of the audience particularly in terms of cultivating an atmosphere of incredulous suspense. His incredible skill lies in having the ability to draw the audience in to an experience that is populated with tension, suspense, fear and anxiety right, keeping them engaged right until the last scene. In this study, I will critically examine the clever way in which Hitchcock crafts sound and silence to cultivate suspense. Although my work isn’t cinematic, it is a storytelling piece and my intention is for an audience to physically and emotionally engage with this particular story/experience, and therefore drawing each individual in and keeping them sustained, on edge and totally immersed in the experience to the end, through clever manipulation of sound, is vital. 

Analysis of how Sound is used in Psycho:

This film illustrates the way Sound Design staples such as creaking floorboards, the gradual opening of doors and the stabbing of knives are utilised to achieve sensations of anxiety, fear, tension and alarm. Sound is crucial in this genre as it serves to represent and embody the subjective qualities of state of mind as well as the emotional aspects which are more prevalent in Horror. Thus, sound is typically used to embody a characters subconscious state. This reflects the relationship between Sound and emotion, highlighting it’s importance in terms of my project. This is because the narrative of the installation itself is based on the story of an individual’s subconscious state, i.e. her Sleep encounters/Night demons, therefore validating the decision to pursue this work as a Sound piece. This is the case in Psycho where most of the unease and tension that the audience feel is as a result of the sonic disconnect in which the sound that they hear doesn’t have a visual correspondence. In terms of pacing, Psycho utilises a soundtrack that gradually builds throughout the course of the film, slowly progressing to evoke a raw sense of anxiety and fear in the audience, signifying the way Hitchcock famously uses Sound design and editing to play with the viewers emotions. According to Hitchcock, his objective was to use these experiential techniques with the intention of making the audience feel that they were part of the film. This idea directly links in with my installation in the sense that my aim is to create an emotionally and physically engaging experience of this particular account of an individual’s Sleep Paralysis encounters. 

Psycho was a key film in terms of revolutionising the process and effect of Sound editing and mixing. One of the most famous and illustrative examples of this is the shower scene in which we, as the audience, never visually see the knife make contact with the woman, but merely through the power of sound, we are convinced we have seen it. In order to heighten the anticipation, emotion and suspense of the scene, non-diegetic sound in the form of an eerie, spine-chilling music track is used at the beginning to forebode what is to come. The rhythm and pacing of this music track is crucial to recognise and examine as it gradually builds in a subtle, natural yet incredibly compelling way. The music, however, ceases when the shower is turned on; the effect of this is that the sound of the shower dripping is emphasised. As soon as the shower curtain is pulled, the music comes back on and it is a high pitched sound that, as discussed before, is indicative of anxiety, tension and a strong sense of unease. This high pitched, almost shrill and sharp sound is significantly louder and faster, reflecting changes in pace, rhythm and tempo. This acts as a method to foreshadow that something sinister is going to happen, thus representing how Hitchcock is utilising sound as a symbol. Symbolism in this scene extends further as the sound of the shower, similar to rain, is suggestive of danger, thus heightening the drama involved in the scene.  The music is then layered on top of this sound effect with the intention of cultivating a piercing, strong and penetrative audio mix that evokes suspense and fear in it’s audience.

From this point, the shower sound is continuous which serves to remind the audience that this murder is taking place in an intimate, personal and everyday location that is very relatable, heightening the fear. At the end of the scene, the music gradually gets quieter to reflect the fact that the woman is dying and the way in which this fades out to a silence. In this way, sound is continually used as a method to evoke emotion in it’s audience as the dying down of the music can be construed as a symbol for her death. 

There is a distinctive shift in the pace and tempo of the sound where at the beginning of scene the sound is gentle in rhythm and tone which lulls the audience into a false sense of security. Examples of this include the stepping into the shower and the water running as although these cultivate tension and uncertainty, they are also everyday sounds that tell a story of a straightforward shower process. However, as the scene builds towards a dramatic climax in the narrative, the sound reflects this as the volume increases, breaking the suspense that has been cultivated and instilling light and shade. The intense rhythmic quality and the high pitched sounds evokes discomfort in the audience; this is an element that I can consider emulating in my Sound Mix in the sense that different types of sound and audio can be layered and presented throughout the mix to convey a story which has a progression including moments of stillness juxtaposed with intense, climactic sensations. 

In the broader context of the film as a whole, Hitchcock also withheld sound information as a device to heighten ambiguity, uncertainty, hence suspense and tension for the audience, enhancing their engagement with the story. In a similar way, Hitchcock withheld visual information to accentuate the sonic components, where an off screen sound effect is applied. This is an idea that resonates strongly with my project in the sense that my installation is a sound piece without any visual elements in order to cultivate an ubiquitous, all consuming, immersive experience of a Sleep Paralysis encounter. This is a very interesting concept that I will most definitely experiment with and incorporate into my next testing period in terms of withholding sound at particular points that the audience will expect sound to further draw them into the experience and accentuate the sense of uncertainty and tension. However, in doing so, I will ensure that I am careful in terms of making sure that withholding sound in this way doesn’t disengage the audience; this is a fine line that I need to tread carefully and skilfully. As an initial idea, one possible avenue to explore would be to include very evocative, powerful sound effects but have a void or potential delay in the corresponding piece of narrative.


This was inspired by the scene in Hitchcock’s Blackmail (pictured above), where audio information in the form of a telephone conversation is concealed from the audience, instilling a strong sense of curiosity, ambiguity and suspense. For example, in Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, whispering is used with the intention of intriguing and captivating the audience into the story. This is a technique that could be applied to my installation as whispering adds texture, tone and depth which would offer me creative potential in terms of creating a personal relationship between participants and the narrator whose story it is. 

Linking it back to Hitchcock’s aim, he wanted his films to impact an audience’s emotional and psychological state, with the intention of evoking an active reading where they are questioning, confronting and challenging in terms of both themselves and the narrative. This responds conceptually to one of the primary aims of my work in the sense that I want individuals to engage with the experience that they are being immersed in, but on a deeper level, I also aim for the installation to simulate feeling, sensations and emotions in them that they can relate to their own night demons as they are such a universal, identifiable, rich subject matter. In this way, I intend for individuals within an audience to engage, question, challenge and confront both Carla MacKinnon’s Sleep Paralysis experiences, but also their own night terrors. For example, how do these experiences relate to what they encounter? I am enamoured and inspired by the way in which Hitchcock utilises sound to tap into the audiences subconscious, psychological state in order to effect it. 

Summary of how Hitchcock uses sound to evoke emotion (with critically evaluative annotations of how these techniques can develop and shape my work):

Example of atmospheric sound used in INSTALLATION EXPERINETIAL ART for emotion

this is because my work sits between the two


Contextual Example – Analysis:



Vibration Testing

Now that I have established a successful code that effectively works with the lighting code to activate the vibration at particular points in the experience for specified durations, the next step is to test it in terms of the installation as a whole. This comprises of positioning it successfully in the structure of the bed, determining the strength of the vibration effect in addition to a range of technical considerations. The goal behind this is so that the vibration is set up and ready for the next phase of testing as this is a key element that is experimental and therefore feedback is essential. 

Initial Concerns and Questions (before testing out the pillow in the space):

  • Where should the vibration be? What part of the body should be affected?
    • Should there be multiple pillows?
  • How can the pillow be spread across the bed? In order to ensure that it is still comfortable and secure..and so that it is not noticeable at first in order to evoke a sense of surprise and have an appropriate impact.
  • How can the vibration be felt through the mattress? Is is strong enough? Does it need to be further up or down in terms of the layers of the bedding? 

Rough Testing Observations and Evaluation:

  • I placed the pillow under the back position (pushed against the spinal cord) as I believe that this would give the best effect in terms of the area of the body that it impacts – although this will largely be down to experimentation
  • One concern was the fact that by putting the pillow under the mattress, the bed becomes uneven – in an attempt to problem solve this, I spread pillows across the length of the bed (where the vibration pillow isn’t) in order to ensure a comfortable lying environment
  • The next concern was the fact that you can hear the click of the relay as it turns on and off which could be distracting – although I intend for the sound to be loud enough to drown out this clicking. Another idea is that when the bedside cabinet is fully closed that the relay may not be noticeable to someone who is immersed and engaged in the experience and who isn’t aware of it. However, this is something that will only be resolved through experimentation and testing.
  • The pillow is successful in terms of the vibration effect felt as it is strong enough through the mattress yet not overbearing – this is hugely positive as this was impossible to determine until physically testing it
  • Further to this, I am pleased with the size of the pillow as it has a large enough surface area to cultivate a solid effect that is felt through the body.
  • Conceptually, this vibration element has the potential to further consolidate the experience as a show and tell piece. The reason for this is that the vibrations will not be used randomly which would just be disorientating and move away from the storytelling focus of the installation, instead, they will relate to specific elements of the narrative; i.e. when the speakers describes fizzing feelings. This could transform the installation into a list type piece where each description is accompanied by a vibration which would be predictable and not what I am trying to create. Therefore, I will introduce vibration before the corresponding element in the narrative to cultivate a sense of foreboding. It is also essential to use theoretical and scientific research to drive these technical decisions; for instance, what comes first – vibration or sound? This type of research is pertinent to this project development as theory underpins and backs up the work.

This video (below) show the first test of the vibration pillow, reflecting these analyses of advantages and disadvantages of it’s various aspects as discussed above. Although in this clip, the clicking of the relay is very noticeable when the vibration starts and stops, the testing process (which I was document) will prove whether the sound drowns this out or not. I will also ask participants this question after their experience of the installation in order to judge how much of an issue this is in order to further develop problem solving techniques. 

What comes first – Vibration or Sound?

  • Sound waves are formed when a vibrating object causes the surrounding medium to vibrate
  • PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: If the vibration is strong and slow, the sound will be loud and low in pitch. If the vibration is weak but fast, the sound will be soft and high pitched
    • Thus, vibration shapes sound 
  • Sound is arguably just a form of vibration as sound is defined as ‘vibrations that travel through the air’
  • You feel before you hear, hence vibrations are before sound
    • For example, you feel the vibration of an explosion through the ground prior to hearing it.

Therefore, vibration is felt before sound is heard, thus an idea of how to effectively and powerfully incorporate vibration (from the pillow) into this installation is to introduce a vibration prior to the dialogue that it relates to which would have numerous advantages for the experience as a whole particularly in relation to my intention. For instance, introducing ‘vibration feelings’ before particular sounds and aspects of the dialogue would create a sense of foreboding and a visceral, sensorial signifier that something is building and about to happen, evoking tension and unease in addition to activating the senses of the individual experiencing the piece. Following this, the next stage is to pinpoint when I would like to implement this pillow to vibrate ahead of the tests and the duration of these vibrations. Although test audience feedback and experimentation is the solution to these queries, my thinking at this stage is that the vibration periods should be recurring depending on the content of the narrative, and should last for a substantial duration in order to have an effect. Despite the recurring nature, I think that there should be a build up and crescendo of vibration towards the end as it builds in pace and momentum following the narrative as it is a storytelling piece at it’s heart.

Next Steps:

  • Visually plot possible points for the vibration effect and potential durations (consider the importance of vibration before sound)
  • Incorporate these ideas into the Arduino code and test
  • Ensure that vibration is ready for testing process




Haptic Visuality Theoretical Investigation

Haptic Visuality, in simple terms, is the process of ‘assuming a tactile relation to one’s object — touching, more than looking‘ (Marks, 2002), referring to the physical sense as a mode of ‘viewing’. Marks argues that ‘an intensely physical and sensuous engagement with works of media art that enriches our understanding and experience of these works and of art itself‘ (Marks, 2002). This, in essence, states that haptic visuality is a tactile way of engaging with art which involves the body, thus evoking a physical experience.


  • This theory underpins the basis of my work as it states that the most powerful of all senses and this is reflected in the audience feedback of my work where participants unanimously acclaimed the vibration as the most effective and strongest part
  • With the immense increase of online and digital exhibiting of work, there is a gap when it comes to the viewing experience and the way in which audiences are giving the opportunity to connect with art work – therefore this work will hopefully provide an audience with a multi sensory and dimensional experience where they can fully engage with the work – both on a physical and emotional level