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Audio Group
Science -
the starting point

Following a health fair at the Petchey Academy, the audio group were exposed to real sounds of a healthy heart beat and an unhealthy heart beat. Audio examples from the Wellcome Trust library allowed students to listen to examples of a sudden increase in BPM after inhaling cigarette smoke as well as examples of a silent heart attack. First Stages

Much of the first session was taken up with warm up exercises and improvisation. The young people practised simple exercises for posture and breathing to improve vocal projection.
The group was encouraged to ‘visualise’ various bodily functions and then interpret them vocally. Beatboxing

We invited professional beat-boxer, singer and rapper, ‘Doneao’ to conduct a session to illustrate to the students how different noises and sounds can be reproduced vocally using the mouth, tongue, cheeks and lips. Doneao showed the group how important it is to use the whole body to assist vocal delivery. He engaged the group by conducting a ‘stepping’ session where the group stomped their feet clapped their hands and made beats. The group enjoyed this session enormously and it gave them confidence and a sense that the project was within their grasp. Audio recordings

We listened to audio recordings of heart beats sourced from the Wellcome Trust library. A variety of audio clips included a healthy heart beat, heart disease and a cardiac arrest. Other sounds, such as wheezing and digestion were sourced on the internet.

The group was divided into four. Each group concentrated on one or two sounds to be re-created. It was easiest to keep the heart beat group the same for each movement, since there were some very keen beat-boxers in one group that felt that they could work together to develop the changes in sounds according to the stresses on the heart.

Since the project had already been storyboarded into four movements, we had a science revision session and pin-pointed the sounds we may need to re-create for each movement. (Click on the link to listen/download mp3 files)

Movement 1.
Movement 2.
Movement 3.
Movement 4.

The young people enjoyed improvising with the sounds and developing small set pieces. The sounds were recorded using Cubase, and at the end of every session a rough arrangement was made. Every workshop required audio post-production to perfect the sounds and adjust the arrangement where necessary. Music Technology

Each session started with a review of the previous week’s recordings and arrangement, and the groups were given CDs to rehearse with. During these workshops, the students were exposed to music technology and how audio could be recorded and layered into an arrangement. Using a whiteboard, the young people could identify their sounds and where they were placed in the arrangement. This also provided an opportunity to learn about tempo, the arrangement speeded up to match the increase in heart rate due to various exterior factors such as smoking. The arrangement attempted to match exactly, these variations.

Students were taught how to listen to each other’s heart beat, how to locate a pulse and they experimented with increasing the heart beat and breathing rate through simple cardiovascular exercise. These exercises enabled the students to focus on the everyday sounds of a normal, healthy body.

Talks and presentations from the health specialists at UEL and St Bart’s school of nursing provided the audio group with colourful descriptions in order for them to “picture” the inner workings of the heart, lungs and stomach, so that they could recreate these facts aurally. E.g. “sticky blood clinging to the sides of the arteries” evoked enough information for the participants to imagine how this might sound from inside the wall of the artery.

As with the visual group, students were introduced to sports heroes and role models, imagining how a healthy body might sound differently to a body regularly taking in smoke and fatty foods.

Percussion instruments were on hand to inspire the student’s interpretation of body noises and assist them in the composition of the audio track.

Each movement of the audio track was created separately, paying particular attention to what happens in the body at the moment of inhaling cigarette smoke or the onset of a silent heart attack, ensuring the tempo of Corporeal Cacophony is accurate to the body’s BPM.

Sharing work

During the project the visual arts and audio groups met to show the progress of their work. These meetings were important and seemed to inspire the young people.

Vocal Delivery

Finally, the emphasis was placed on the vocal delivery of the piece. The group had a chance to learn simple microphone technique and how to stand in order to open up the chest area and improve vocal projection. We covered the biology involved to produce vocal sounds and practised expelling air from the lungs using the diaphragm, starting simply by belly laughing. Some young people needed to be encouraged to sing out, and laughter was a great way to increase confidence and volubility.


Finally, the group had to rehearse, firstly using the recorded arrangement and then just a click track. This included taking the final recording on a CD away with them to practise at home.





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