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Sophia Edlund

University of Exeter
PhD Candidate
Exeter, Devon

Visualising vocal attraction: A 10-minute practice-as-research provocation

Images of birdsong condensing in the air into aesthetic formations and of toad calls creating ripples on the water’s surface usually enchant viewers. Nature ‘captures’ these vocalisations like instant transcriptions, allowing people to see breath travelling through the elements. Likewise, singer Margaret Watts Hughes’ ‘Voice-Figures’ formed through the Eidophone (1891) and soprano and performance artist Juliana Snapper’s ‘vocal bubbles’ formed from singing underwater (2009-11) both offer visual portals into voicing’s ‘invisible’ dimensions. In more conventional vocal performance contexts, audience’s physical movements (such as leaning in and flinching) similarly reflect visual effects of voice, and also suggest dynamics of vocal attraction and repulsion. 

How can voice research interconnect with the (in)visible dimension of voicing-listening? If voice is ‘continuously co-devised’ (Thomaidis 2019) by the voicer and the listener, how do voicers visualise their sonic threads reaching towards their listeners? How do listeners visualise receiving these threads? What can be learnt by simultaneously engaging the visual and the vocal - using as a research method what I call a ‘visuocal’ approach - to explore the (in)visible dynamics ‘in-between’ (Thomaidis and Macpherson 2015) voicers and listeners? What unique shapes may emerge from such ‘visuocal’ experiments?

My practice-led research explores different forms of vocal attraction. In my provocation, I will discern the (in)visible dynamics of devising vocal attraction as ‘visuocally’ related by participants in my project (herders, folksingers, parents, and arts practitioners). What can a sketch of a herding call reveal about the process of vocally attracting a cow? How can a lulling parent’s sketch of their voice explain their process of vocally attracting their infant to sleep? What might these visuals illuminate about different conceptualisations of vocal attraction, such as vocal spirals, labyrinths, and orbs? My provocation will include documentation from my ethnographic fieldwork and practice-led laboratories.

Sophia Anna Edlund is a visual artist, voice researcher, and a PhD candidate in Performance Practice at the University of Exeter. Her voice-based PhD examines different practices of voicing ‘thelxis’ (an ancient Greek word for attraction). Sophia’s studies include a BA in English Literature, an MA in Text and Performance, and an MSc in Performance Science. She is the current Reviews Editor for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies and has published on the topic of sirens (2019) and ‘humanimal’ voice pedagogy (2021). For more information, please visit her website.