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What is echome?

echome is a wearable technology and a holistic pedagogy for sound and movement interaction.

A photo of one person's hands tying a black wristband with a small red box (the movement sensor) to another persons wrist.

Photo Credit Jules Lister

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 Catalyst Award (2019-2021), the Michael Beverley Innovation Fellowship (2020-2021) and an ESRC Healthy Ageing Catalyst Award (2022-2023).

Sound and Movement Interaction through digital technology

Sound and movement are in a reciprocal relationship: movement creates sound and sound signals movement. This relationship can become practised, deepened or even stylised through artistic activities, such as playing an acoustic instrument or through exploring the sonic qualities of material artefacts and environments.

In the last 30 years, digital interfaces have enabled the production of sound through the movement of the hands, body parts or the entire body. Products and prototypes 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. Yet, the key idea of these and similar products is that a digital interface makes possible the creation of sound through the movement of the body.

As technologies for sound and movement interaction become more widely available and reach audiences of different backgrounds and needs, it could be argued that we are on the cusp of the emergence of a new form of medium and a new kind of cultural practice. The production of sound is no longer tied to the material properties of the sounding instrument and the kinetic repertoire of the player; in principle any movement can produce any sound. The guiding hypothesis of the echome project is that, as technologies for sound and movement interaction become more accessible and reliable, their use will produce new forms of expression and new experiences of embodiment. As digitally mediated sound and movement interaction reaches wider and more diverse groups of users, we need a new language to name these experiences; a pedagogy that can allow us to navigate the contours of the practice; and a wider context according to which we can evaluate its significance.

What is echome then?

echome comprises a digital wearable interface that makes possible the production of sound through movement in an intuitive and accessible way. It is also a form of practice that attempts to map the terrain of kinesonic embodiment both in terms of the phenomenal experience of the user as well as the contexts and value systems within which this experience is situated. The technology as well as the practice have evolved through ongoing engagement with artists, researchers, and participants in group, workshop and performance settings. Work with and on echome is guided by the following principles:

1.The motion input and the sonic output are given equal attention and value.

2.Insights from the different contexts in which sound and movement interaction has taken place are considered and, where appropriate, become integrated.

3. The user's movement is self-determined.

4. The experience of creating sound out of movement is approached as a possible site for exploring processes of self-formation.

5. The interaction between sound and movement is approached as a space for intersubjective encounter and world-building.

6. The relationship with the technology (the software and hardware devices) is playful, exploratory and open to chance, accident and synchronicity.

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