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echome is a custom-made software and a holistic pedagogy for movement sonification.

Drawing by Ben Skinner

echome makes possible a new form of sensory experience that merges kinesthetic sense and audio perception in a novel form of kinesonic configuration.

The system was developed by Maria Kapsali, Kingsley Ash and Nikos Stavropoulos in collaboration with dance artists Sophie Alder and Sandrine Monin, industry professionals and diverse groups of end-users.

The project was supported by the Cultural Institute through a Catalyst Award and by Nexus through Michael Beverley Innovation Fellowship.

What is movement sonification?

Movement sonification is an emerging form of cultural practice that fosters a novel relationship between sound and movement.

Broadly speaking, movement sonification refers to the production of sound through movement and this encompasses a wide range of activities, anything from walking on stiletto heels on a wooden floor to playing a musical instrument.

Applied more specifically, the term refers to the synchronous production of sound and movement through some form of digital technology. In the last 20 years, several inventions have allowed users to produce sound through the movement of their hands or their entire body. These products feature different kinds of technological solutions, enable different relationships between physical movement and sonic expression, are positioned within different cultural contexts and have different aims.

For example, MiMu Gloves  and MusicGlove are both hand-based. The first is a haptic instrument for making music, whereas the second is a certified medical technology for rehabilitation. The Motion Composer, on the other hand, involves the whole body and is intended for people with different abilities.

What makes echome unique?

echome is part of this emergent cultural production. What sets it apart from existing products and prototypes, are the following key features:

  • The user interface is accessible and intuitive. It can be used by lay users at home and with minimal technical set up.
  • The system involves wearable sensors and/or mobile phones that can be attached anywhere on the user’s body. This can enhance the user's awareness of specific body parts and movement patterns.
  • Users can choose from a sound library that includes natural instruments and electroacoustic compositions.
  • Users can input sounds of their choice and combine different sound samples.
  • Users can record and store the sound they are creating.

What relationship between sound and movement does echome make possible?

echome blends the experience of movement with the perception of sound. It fosters a kinesonic modality, which combines the sonic with the kinesthetic sense in a novel, hybrid configuration.

Standard audio devices play sound in a linear way.  In echome, the sound does not unfold linearly, but spherically and in this sense echome is closer to non-mediated experiences of listening. Within any kind of natural or artificial environment, what and how we listen depends on spatial characteristics, individual ability, as well as relationships between the listening body and the source of sound. Sounds may reach us from any direction and may be layered. Additionally, our position and movement in a space may change what and how we hear.

echome amplifies the interdependence between bodily movement and sonic event, because different aspects of the chosen sound may become present at any given point in response to the user’s movement. This engages the user in a search for sounds: the movement can be purposefully directed towards finding ‘hidden’ aspects of the sound and accordingly the unfolding of the sound can take the movement into new directions. Within this reciprocal relationship, moving and listening become intertwined. Listening is achieved through moving whereas the experience of moving (of the body in space) becomes enhanced by the generation of sound.