CNMN > Projects > Sound is Touch

Dr. Daniel Oore, International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation & Memorial University

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  • 13 à 18 ans
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Sound is Touch


Lis­te­ning, tou­ching, fee­ling and soun­ding acti­vi­ties using your voice, hands, whole body, ins­tru­ments, or spea­kers (e.g. on phone, com­pu­ter, ear­phones). These sound acti­vi­ties are for people of all —inclu­ding hea­ring and non-hea­ring— abilities.

Note : To help prevent germ trans­mis­sion, wash and/or disin­fect your hands, other body parts, and objects used before, in bet­ween, and after the acti­vi­ties des­cri­bed here !


Your music tou­ched me —I was moved.

The meta­phors we use reveal our lived expe­rience : we feel sound all over our bodies ! Feel the music… feel the bass !

Our uni­verse is filled with ongoing motion, resul­ting in touch that trans­fers ener­gy. The ener­gy of this touch can cause more move­ment, such as vibra­tions. Vibra­tions are back and forth oscil­la­tions of mat­ter that rever­be­rate and tra­vel as waves. When vibra­tions reach our bodies they touch and move us, our skin, bones, joints, blood ves­sels, and organs, like our ears.

Sound touches us, cau­sing and also com­pel­ling us to move in dif­ferent ways. This is power­ful. Sound and music are inti­mate : they touch the entire body, out­side and inside. Vibra­tions tra­vel and touch us, from across dis­tances. Eve­ry­bo­dy has sounds they want or don’t want to touch. Can you think of some ?


Sing a conti­nuous sound (e.g. a vowel). Can you feel your mouth, neck, and other body parts vibra­ting ? Conti­nue sin­ging the same sound and gent­ly touch toge­ther your upper and lower lips. Then try tou­ching toge­ther your upper and lower teeth —the front teeth and then the back. What changes do you feel ?

Slow­ly shift back and forth bet­ween two sung sounds (e.g. two vowels like “ah-oo-ah-oo”). Can you feel what move­ments in your body cause the sound to change ? Sing and hold the palm of your hand just in front of your mouth. What do you feel on your hand and face ?

Now sing and use your hands to gent­ly touch dif­ferent areas of your body (e.g. your nose, lips, throat, back, or chest). How do vibra­tions of dif­ferent sounds feel in dif­ferent parts of your body ? Gra­dual­ly change the sound (e.g.: to a dif­ferent vowel, conso­nant or sono­rant, to a dif­ferent octave, or to a dif­ferent loud­ness). Do cer­tain sounds feel distinct ?

Explore tou­ching sounds while your ears are plug­ged (or while wea­ring head­phones that are playing white noise). How does this change your sen­sa­tion of vibrations ?

Explore vibra­tions with objects in your home : a musi­cal ins­tru­ment or a spoon tap­ping and sli­ding along a metal bowl or table. How do the vibra­tions of these dif­ferent motions feel ? Try gent­ly dam­pe­ning the vibra­tions of the bowl on dif­ferent parts of your arm or foot. Fill the bowl with water and conti­nue… can you see the vibra­tions rip­pling on the water ? Sing dif­ferent vowels into the bowl until you find one that real­ly reso­nates ! Make music by explo­ring the sen­sa­tions of vibra­tions —try plug­ging your ears and also clo­sing your eyes.

Sound is touch. When we hear sound, we are vibra­ting —moving— toge­ther with this sound. This is powerful.

Like the tiny parts inside the ear, a micro­phone contains thin and sen­si­tive com­po­nents that vibrate simi­lar­ly to the sounds that touch it. The microphone’s vibra­tions are conver­ted into varia­tions of elec­tri­cal ener­gy which get trans­mit­ted to other devices and, even­tual­ly, back into vibra­tions of a spea­ker… at a concert or in your phone or com­pu­ter. Explore the vibra­tions of spea­kers. Inflate a bal­loon and explore how its thin mem­brane vibrates with dif­ferent sounds. What does your favou­rite music feel like to touch ? Would you reco­gnize it with your ears plugged ?

Can you tell if someone you know is fee­ling sad, joy­ful, angry, or ano­ther emo­tion, by the sounds they make when they come home ? Do you feel their vibe-rations ?

Maybe your friend will explore vibra­tion with you ? Make sound toge­ther, per­haps taking turns care­ful­ly and gent­ly tou­ching agreed upon parts of each other’s bodies or musi­cal ins­tru­ments. Where do you feel motion and vibra­tion when your friend plays a recor­der or gui­tar ? If you’re explo­ring through a phone or com­pu­ter connec­tion, take turns soun­ding and fee­ling the spea­ker vibra­tions against your bodies.

Dis­co­ver which types of sounds your dif­ferent body parts are sen­si­tive to. What parts of your body feel more sen­si­tive in dis­tin­gui­shing higher, mid, or lower-range fre­quen­cies (pitches), and bet­ween more and less intense vibra­tions ? What vibra­tions com­pel you to move and dance ?

When you hear a sound, notice and explore your sen­sa­tions of vibra­tions and your ins­tincts to move your body.

Let sound touch us ! 


How does tou­ching a sound with your hand, alter the sound ? Fli­cking the tongue while voca­li­zing or fli­cking the hand in front of the voca­li­zing mouth is an ancient tech­nique and has an ono­ma­to­poeic term in English : ‘ulu­la­tion’ (which is also used to refer to wai­ling). In fact, dif­ferent lan­guages seem to use com­pa­rable “l‑l” sounds to des­cribe this sound-fli­cking tech­nique. Some theo­ries sug­gest that the first part of the word “hallelu+ja” (Hebrew “praise/shout to + G‑d”) ori­gi­na­ted from such prai­se­ful, trilling ulu­la­tion. Dif­ferent reli­gions des­cribe God and God’s crea­tive power as sound and vibration.

(Clean your phone!) Cup your hand around the phone spea­ker and then gent­ly move your fin­gers and palm to change the reso­nance fre­quen­cy. You can also do this with the spea­ker pla­ced near your mouth and move your mouth as though you are saying “wow wow” (but without using your voice). You are chan­ging the vowel shape of your mouth a bit like a “wah wah” mute on a brass ins­tru­ment or elec­tric pedal. Remem­ber ear­lier we explo­red shif­ting back-and-forth bet­ween sounds, like “oo-ah-oo” —”wow”?!

Run your fin­ger along dif­ferent objects (e.g. a plas­tic contai­ner, a drin­king glass, a wall, a table). Can you guess the vibra­to­ry qua­li­ty of a sur­face by mere­ly hol­ding it, without moving your skin along its sur­face ? Can you infer the tex­tu­ral rhythm of an object just by loo­king at it ? Use a pen­cil and paper to draw ima­gi­na­ry shapes and tex­tures (not objects), and give your page of dra­wings to a friend for them to create the sound of each tex­ture (per­haps as you indi­cate the pres­sure and rate of motion with your hand). Guess which of your images your friend is soni­fying ! Adapt the “Eye Spy…” game : “I touch with my lit­tle fin­ger some­thing that feels like [make the sound of the tex­ture with your mouth]!” (Cf. “Opta­con”.)

Are mecha­no, ther­mo, pho­to, and chemo–reception each a form of touch ?

Sing a sound and ima­gine your toes or other extre­mi­ties vibra­ting or reso­na­ting with your voice. Do you feel some­thing ? How and why ?

Micro­phones reso­nate with sounds that touch their sen­si­tive com­po­nents. Do other objects also “feel” each other’s vibra­tions and reso­nate toge­ther ? Expe­riment with or watch videos of pen­du­lum clocks or mecha­ni­cal metro­nomes syn­chro­ni­zing when they are pla­ced on a com­mon sur­face. (Cf. “Entrain­ment or Mode Locking”.)


“Mecha­no­re­cep­tors” are dis­tri­bu­ted across our body to sense dif­ferent qua­li­ties of touch, vibra­tion, and pressure.

If a vibra­tion oscil­lates regu­lar­ly (“per­io­di­cal­ly” retur­ning to the same condi­tion at equal incre­ments of time) bet­ween 20 to 20,000 Hz (cycles per second) and is intense (loud) enough, the ear fuses the sepa­rate oscil­la­tions into an expe­rience of conti­nuous pit­ched tone. The lowest note on a pia­no is 27.5 Hz, and a lit­tle below that, from 25 down to 20 Hz, pitches sound more wob­bly and indis­tinct, and from 20 Hz down (known as “infra­pitch”) to about 0.5 Hz (one cycle eve­ry two seconds), each oscil­la­tion is heard as a dis­crete click (a “pulse”) within a stea­di­ly repea­ting rhythm. Dif­ferent oscil­la­tions can also be expe­rien­ced as vibra­tion and pres­sure changes by mecha­no­re­cep­tors all over our body. And even fre­quen­cies that we can’t feel as dis­tinct vibra­tion or pres­sure changes, may still affect our bodies.  




Mecha­no­re­cep­tors : 


Vibra­tese Language




Essen­tic and Sen­tic Forms (See Clynes, in book & docu­ment list below)

Entrain­ment or mode locking

Ves­ti­bu­lar Self-Motion (See Bha­ru­cha, in book & docu­ment list below)


Concept — Daniel Oore

Text — Daniel Oore

Nar­ra­tion — Daniel Oore

Video Demons­tra­tion — Jona­than Oore & Daniel Oore

Video­gra­phy — Sta­cy Smith, Jona­than Oore, Daniel Oore

Video & Audio edi­ting — Daniel Oore

Ori­gi­nal Music & Sound­scape — Daniel Oore

Consul­tants — Dr. Mor­de­cai Oore, P. Eng (IMP Aeros­pace) & Dr. Jona­than Oore, MD (McGill Uni­ver­si­ty) 


To help prevent germ trans­mis­sion, wash and/or disin­fect your hands, other body parts, and objects used before, in bet­ween, and after the acti­vi­ties des­cri­bed. 

The demons­tra­tions in this video have been sped up to allow a higher num­ber of ideas to be pre­sen­ted in an enter­tai­ning man­ner. Trying these acti­vi­ties at such a fast paces is not recom­men­ded (and could even result in inju­ry…). If you want to watch the acti­vi­ties slow­ly, select a slo­wer play­back speed in the You­Tube video pre­fe­rences. 


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