Our Innovation in Sound MA is unique in the UK educational landscape, but what does ‘Innovation in Sound’ actually mean and why should you care? We sat down with Bristol Course Leader, Bruce Turner to find out more.
“People tend to start courses in sound and music because they want to be in the entertainment industry, which can be quite an individualistic pursuit,” says Course Leader, Bruce Turner. “However, as people get more and more into it, they often find that’s not as fulfilling as doing something for the greater good.”
This is why, Bruce tells me, dBs decided to launch the UK’s first post-graduate degree in Innovation in Sound. Started in Plymouth, but having since expanded to the Institute’s Bristol campus, the course encourages students to explore the wider-world applications of sound, with particular emphasis on how sound can be used for the benefit of others. With the course now in its 2nd year, I decided to sit down with Bruce to find out more.
Bruce Turner, Course Leader for MA Innovation in Sound Bristol
What is Innovation in Sound?
‘Innovation in Sound’ is all about contemplating the possibilities available within the field of sound. It offers students from a diversity of backgrounds the chance to channel their individual passions into the development of useful sound-based solutions.
“Innovation often comes from the unique convergence of concepts,” says Bruce, which is why one of the core values of the MA programme is "trans-disciplinary thinking".
“By thinking about how sound intersects with other disciplines and sectors, interesting new ideas can emerge. One example of this is in medicine, where researchers have found that the harmonic series can be applied to treating cancer cells.”
Trans-disciplinary thinking is something Bruce is currently applying within his own PhD research into Rhythmic Auditory Entrainment. “I’m interested in looking at human patterns of movement and understanding these from a musical perspective. Looking at the potential of sound to motivate people to move in sport, or in rehabilitation for motor dysfunction.”
Other areas in which sound-based solutions are currently being explored include augmented and virtual reality, mental health and the development of hardware, sound systems and sonic environments.
Innovation in Sound has numerous potential applications in the burgeoning fields of virtual and augmented reality
Innovation in Sound students have the chance to decide where they want to focus their studies, enabling them to tailor the course content to suit their own creative and career goals. “There are infinite possibilities in all directions,” Bruce tells me. “With no set project type, style or final deliverable, students can develop their individual ambitions, sonic passions and goals.”
But if the thought of infinite possibilities seems daunting, don’t worry. Students are not expected to have a clear idea of what they want to research before beginning the course and supported during their first semester in developing their ideas through divergent and convergent thinking.
“There is a blend of structured content and personalised development. This is mostly blended so that students start broadly, but as they begin to crystallise a vision, there is more one-to-one guidance, and potentially a mentorship arrangement within a subject specialism.”
“Students finish the programme with an improved concentration in their discipline and the ability to develop a sustained line of thought. They also build up networks in their specialism, which not only furthers their research but can be a great stepping stone into industry.”
Collaboration at its core
This focus on community and collaboration is another core value of the Innovation in Sound MA. Students on the course are diverse, with interests ranging from theatre and live events to games and mental health, and are encouraged whenever possible to cross-pollinate ideas and skillsets.
“Any sound specialist is welcome. There are so many ways of applying ideas with the technology we have here that it caters for a wealth of thought processes. As long as you have a degree and some willingness to explore ideas this can be a fruitful path.”
Collaboration is one of the core tenets of this Masters programme
Studying for an MA at dBs also means becoming part of a much wider sonic community of students and staff, opening up even more opportunities for creative minds to meet. “Students and staff tend to break down the barriers at this point,” says Bruce. "The pupil-teacher idea becomes a lot more fluid because staff are genuinely inspired at a level that is exciting for them so they naturally want to be involved in what people are working on.”
“There are also some excellent opportunities to gain professional experience. The MA course in Bristol is located right next to dBs Pro, our in-house creative audio company. Jay, the Creative Director also has a keen eye on the course and how he can link students and their projects to the industry.”
The results of this approach speak for themselves, with every student from the first year-group to complete the MA achieving distinctions. Final projects ranged from devices to improve production workflow and spatial sound audiobooks to software that enables you to manipulate multiple pieces of hardware using one single controller.
“It never ceases to amaze, how creative people can be within it,” Bruce says. In terms of where students will go with it this year, we will just have to wait and see.
Find out more about the Innovation in Sound MA here.
Interested in studying Innovation in Sound but don’t have a degree qualification? All of our undergraduate courses provide an excellent grounding for this line of study. Find out more about them here.