Next week, postgraduate students from our Bristol and Plymouth centres will be holding a virtual, three-day conference exploring innovation across a variety of sonic disciplines. We sat down with two of them to find out more.
Our Innovation in Sound MA is an opportunity for students from across the sonic disciplines to channel their passions into the development of cutting-edge research and sound-based solutions. This year, the work being developed as part of this programme will be showcased at a unique, online conference, organised by the postgraduate cohort themselves. We caught up with two of these students to find out what this process has been like and why you should seriously consider signing up to attend.
Sound Innovation and New Experiences
“We decided to call the conference S.I.N.E,” Bristol MA student Joe Butcher tells me, “which stands for Sound Innovation and New Experiences.
“All the MA students are working on really striking and fascinating projects, which we are presenting in a new online format, to be more connected and accessible than possibly ever before. This will not only provide a platform for our ideas but also stimulate discussion with the wider community of audio professionals.”
Bound by a common purpose: ‘sound Innovation’, the program for S.I.N.E will include contributions from guest speakers, performances, and showcases across a variety of creative, technical and sociological disciplines.
“We're all in untested waters regarding our research, so this is our chance to connect and speak with people who might be able to help us get to that next level.”
Taking place over three days, the S.I.N.E conference will cover four distinct subject areas.
“First up, we’ve got ‘Composition and Creativity'," says Joe, "which includes practical research into the use of improvisation and extended dubbed mixing, a project exploring music consumption, innovation and online personal branding, and also one searching for identity through sound, using the Portuguese guitar as a pivotal point to question the roles of tradition and identity.”
“We've then got ‘Ambisonics, Spatial Audio, VR, and AR’. So that's the virtual reality and augmented reality section where I’ll be talking about sound design for 3D environments, and looking at taking endangered sounds from the past and bringing them back to life using adaptive techniques.
“We've also got a student talking about immersive theatre and an augmented reality app he’s developed and another who’s exploring how you can use virtual reality and spatial audio to assess the roles of noise pollution in urban environments.”
Bristol student Harry Bone will be presenting his research into the use of spatial audio to assess noise pollution
“The section after that is called ‘Hardware, Product Development and Manufacturing,” adds Jack Cole, a MA student studying at our Plymouth centre. “That’s where I’ll be sharing my research looking at how devices like smartwatches can be used to promote productivity and workflow for people working within DAWs.”
“We also have someone who is developing a new guitar effects pedal,” says Joe, “and someone developing a VST plugin for making microtones like the ones you find in Indian music, so looking for where western and Indian tuning systems can come together. That talk should be really exciting.
“Lastly there is the sociopolitical section, where we've got research into the idea of rhythmic entrainment, and how that affects the dance community and brings people together. And a talk on therapeutic soundscapes and sound therapy.”
“Two Plymouth students are giving presentations in this section into discrimination in the audio industry,” Jack adds, “specifically looking at gender inequality in live sound and the game audio sectors.”
Plymouth student Sabrina Fletcher will be presenting her research into gender inequality in the game audio industry
Experimentation and collaboration
“This is the first year that the conference is happening,” Jack tells me. “I think what we’re trying to set up is something that will carry on after we’ve graduated, which feels exciting. It’s the experimental year, which fits quite nicely with the innovative character of our degree. The hope is, if we pull it off, that we’ll have a platform for all future Masters work.”
However, both Jack and Joe are keen to stress that the conference is not just for the benefit of the MA students. “This conference is trying to try to show the potential of the MA students to educate others about their niches, and to show that breadth of the research going on at dBs,” says Jack.
“You’re going to get to witness a lot of people presenting thinking at the edges of what’s previously been explored using sound,” adds Joe.
The conference will showcase cutting-edge research into areas such as rhythmic entrainment
“What we really want to put across is how much we want to talk with people. Some of us have invited guest speakers from outside the university. These speakers are going to be conversing with the students and then we’re going to have a larger Q&A where everyone can participate. For anyone that wants to get involved in any of the discussions, this is going to be the perfect place for you to do so.”
A self-organising team
In addition to presenting their research at the S.I.N.E conference, the MA students have also been responsible for overseeing the organisation of the entire event. I ask Joe and Jack what this process has been like.
“Well, first of all,” Joe says, “I want to say this is the first time that the two Masters classes from the different dBs campuses have come together virtually and that’s a result of the pandemic. I think that's a really positive thing.
“We've all been learning really fast how to collaborate on a project completely online. We've been able to work together in two completely different places quite well, I think considering the timeframe. And that's been a really good experience.
The students have been using a software called Basecamp to manage the project remotely
Jack adds “It's like any project management sort of situation. It's not gone without its hitches, but that's fine. That's expected in projects like this, but considering we haven't met in the flesh once throughout the whole thing, and yet we've sort of managed to create this conference, I think it's fairly impressive.
“We’ve got a number of different teams working across different aspects like marketing, design, project management and scheduling. It’s taught me the importance of delegating and ensuring that you give people the right skillsets the right tasks.
“We’ve been using a project management software called basecamp from the beginning. It started as quite a low-key project on there with not much going on, but now we’ve got a hive of activity and it all seems to be coming together.”
The S.I.N.E conference will be taking place online across the 12th, 13th & 14th of May 2021.
Admittance is free but attendees will need to reserve a ticket on Eventbrite as space is limited. Secure yours now.