Sounding Bodies Research Project

Project website:

The Sounding Bodies Research Project (2018 – 2020) was a two-year research project exploring resonance in and between bodies, funded through a research grant from the Danish Ministry of Culture. Taking place primarily at the Royal Danish Academy for Art, the research draws from the fields of Acoustic Ecology, Perceptual Studies, Practices in Improvisation and Healing. Sounding Bodies is a term used by Sheppard to refer to the phenomena of sound as it is perceived and produced with and between bodies/entities. The collapse of distinction between Listening and Sounding is also a component of this. The project had two phases, each consisting of a year and a half.

During 2018-2020 the focus  in was developing scores, exercises and tools that can be used to expand awareness of resonance as a source for creative exploration. The project manifested through activity of the Sounding Bodies Research Group (SOBO) comprised of 30 local and international students and professionals in the fields of anthropology, sound, acoustic ecology and arts who research specific areas. The project included workshops on sound and perception, group research and experimentations, and the Sound Forms Symposium (in October 2018) which included performances and talks by international researchers and artists and focused on sound and perception, sound and ecology and embodied sound. Jenny Gräf’s writing about the project can be found on the Sounding Bodies website and in the following publication: KUV Årbog 2018.

In 2019-2020 a second phase of funding was received for developing a tactile, performative instrument/sculpture that could be used to sense sound in new ways. This led to experimentation with developing ways of creating tactile, flat copper speakers using various substrates, a means to produce a tactile, performative speaker. This phase worked with sound, electro-magnetics and materiality to create tactile sonic sculptural objects of various designs that considered sculptural, sonic, kinetic and tactile potential. The idea was to work with the tactility of the planar speakers, in order to make an instrument that works at the both listening and touch. As felt vibration strengthens perceived “sound”, visual experience also manipulates perceptions of sound. Some of the prototypes are shown below.

Above are several prototypes for physical mixing using planar speakers. These include a speaker box with flat speaker inserts for layered physical mixing, a speaker book for the same purpose, and a flat speaker incorporated into a tactile synthesizer (using Ekkoflok’s Oscitrode instrument schematic).

The field of research in Phase 2 of Sounding Bodies combines, digital technologies, electronics, physics, sound synthesis and sculpture. The research and experimentation centers around the problem/question: How to create a sculptural sound object that makes use and activates multiple senses. If sound perception is a synthesis of multiple sensory activities, how can this be employed to create an object that can function on different levels. The starting point was how to work with flat vibrating speakers that can be touched and manipulated to feel and alter sound.(see links for the different steps of experimental research)Collaborators in this include musician, instrument-maker Victoria Shen (Evicshen) at the Harvard Physics Lab, instrument inventor Karl Ekdahl of Knas Inc., in Baltimore, and with the contribution of Valdemar Kristensen of Ekkoflok and his Oscitrode instrument schematic.

Links to video of experimentations with planar speakers (in collaboration with the above mentioned)

The Body Electromagnetic 2021, tactile sound sculpture mounted on wooden table. Materials: copper, magnets, canvas, amplifiers, wav players, solfreggio frequencies

The Body Electro-magnetic, documentation still.

Created for The Aesthetic Ear exhibition, curated by Iben Elmström, March – June 2021.

The interactive sculpture-instrument created for 3 social institutions in Næstved, Denmark. The work, titled ‘The Body Electromagnetic’, was situated for the duration of a few weeks at institutions (for visually impaired, elderly with dementia, and at a psychological support center for women). Later it was on exhibition as part of Det Æstetisk Øre at Rønnebæksholm in Næstved, Denmark May 2021. https://detaestetiskeø

In 2020-2021 porcelain speakers were the next material Sheppard worked with in the context of electro-magnetics, resonance and tactile sculpture.

Porcelain Speaker, 2021