Sound is a medium that acts as a glue between the senses. Hearing is deeply intertwined with vision and movement. Beyond that, researchers and artists are mapping out crossmodal associations with touch, smell, feel, and taste, leading to new and fascinating multimodal designs and experiences, as well as a veritable coral reef of artworks.
Soundislands Festival 2015 and the Si15 Symposium started as two separate ideas and have gradually intertwined. The core theme of both, “~sound:senses”, expresses the clash between sonic arts and sciences of psychology. The tilde grapheme (aka 'swung dash') indicates a formulaic dependency or function, and the colon specifies a co-variation between variables. Our focus is on the interaction effects between physical sound and human senses. You might ask: "OK, but what does the interaction denote, what’s on the other side of this function?" And we must reply: "You are!"
Much remains unknown as to how sensory integration works. Yet artists rely on psychophysical research, i.e. the science of stimulus-sensation, to optimise designed experiences. Throughout history, technical means were developed to extend human capacities in all sensory modalities, both receptive and expressive: recent enabling technologies include film, games, virtual reality, data perceptualisation (e.g. visualisation, sonification, physicalisation…), and immersive, smart architecture. Contemporary art represents a stream of possibilities, yet beneath a surface of flamboyance, some artworks might have sprung from confident intuition rather than theoretically grounded and empirically validated research. The art-science loop needs to be closed. Can designers profit from a deeper involvement in the perceptual sciences? Can researchers use art and design more convincingly as hypothesis-generators or test-beds for experiments? Can artists tell better stories by distinguishing between innate sensory interactions and culturally acquired yet subconscious interaction experiences? Can a line be drawn between normal and pathological ‘synaesthesia’?
Sound artists and musicians have always been inclined towards intermediality (cf. ancient rites, dance, opera, cinema). The first computer artworks were musical compositions. In numerous fields of application, sound integrates with other media, often in a supportive yet essential capacity. Sound and music have provided fertile grounds for research in perceptual psychology and computer science. The fluency of sound, its invisible and intangible nature – and because it can only happen inside time – might be key to an understanding the human condition: brain, body and soul.
Soundislands Festival /Si15 builds on the Si13 Symposium. Thanks to partnerships with ArtScience Museum and the National Art Council, we are able to make a bold statement this year. Nanyang Technological University has sustained its commitment to our work by providing core funding from the Centre For Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at NTU and further support from the School of Art Design Media and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. We are proud that Si15 keynote speakers and artists have received assistance from the Italian Cultural Institute and the New Zealand Art Council. We have also received endorsements from the Asia Computer Music Project and the International Computer Music Association. Thank you all!
We wish all concertgoers, exhibition visitors, symposium attendants, and contributing artists and researchers, a warm welcome to the Si15 Soundislands Festival, and hope that you will have a great time!
Dr PerMagnus Lindborg, Chair
Dr Suzy Styles, Co-chair (proceedings)
Dr Joyce Beetuan Koh, Co-chair (concerts)
Dr Stefano Fasciani, Co-chair (exhibitions)