Our project is a digitized version of the experience of a sound bath. The objective was the same – to explore the ancient stress-relieving and sound healing practice. However we sought to achieve this using laptops and phones, which are often associated with being the cause of stress and anxiety. Our experiment made use of motion detection, WEBGL animation, sound detection and emission.
Table of Contents
The goal of this experiment is to create an interactive experience expandable to 20 screens.
Stress is something that affects many. The constant hustle-bustle of work deadlines, fast-paced city life, and overachievement may push you to the edge and most could benefit from self-care, meditation, relaxation and pause from the busy life. Enter sound baths.
Sound baths use music for healing and relaxation. It is defined as an immersion in sound frequency that cleans the soul (McDonough). From Tibetan singing bowls to Aboriginal didgeridoos (Dellert), music has always been used for therapeutic uses for over decades now. The ancient Greeks also used sound vibrations to aid in digestion, treat mental disturbance and induce sleep. Aristotle’s ‘De Anima’ also shows how flute music can purify the soul.
Ever since the late 19th century, researchers have begun focusing on improving the correlation between sound and healing. These studies proved that music could lower blood pressure, decrease pulse rate and also assist the parasympathetic nervous system.
So, essentially a sound bath is a meditation class that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while you are enveloped in ambient sounds.
Sound baths use repetitive notes at different frequencies to help bring your focus away from your thoughts. These sounds are generally created with crystal bowls, cymbals and gongs. Similar to a yoga session, the instructor of a sound bath creates the flow of a sound bath. Each instrument creates a different frequency that vibrates in your body and helps guide you to the meditative and restorative state. Some people believe bowls made from certain types of crystals and gems can channel different restorative properties.
Our project is a digitized version of the experience of a sound bath. The objective was the same – to explore the ancient stress-relieving and sound healing practice. However we sought to achieve this using laptops and phones, which are often associated with being the cause of stress and anxiety . We allowed those experiencing it a moment to pause, reflect and reconnect with their inner soul.
The concept of our experiment was to let the user interact with 4 primary zones in order to experience them:
- Zone A – Wild Forest – Green
- Zone B – Ocean Escape – Blue
- Zone C – Zen Mode – Purple
- Zone D – Elements of life – Pink
- Projections – a) Visually soothing abstract graphics. b) Life quotes
We carefully segregated the different experiences based on their soothing experiences in the four corners of the space. The Zone A consisted of motion sensitive sounds of rain, chirping and crickets along with the motion sensitive zonal colour of green. Similarly, Zone B consisted of motion sensitive seascape sounds like ocean waves and seagulls along with the ambient lighting of blue tones. The Zone C being the zen zone, had meditation tunes as well as flute and bell melodies that were triggered by people passing by. The zone also had the ambient lighting of pink touch to it. The final zone D represented elemental sounds such as rain, fire and earth which would be triggered by motion, however, we ultimately opted for silence within that zone, providing a brief audio escape. The colours were drawn together with the use of the colour-cycling lamps on nears the floors.
The experience also consisted of projections – eye pleasing visualizations which were projected over the ceiling. These projections were volume sensitive. So, based on the interactive audience, the visualizations would become brighter and more prominent. To go along with the theme of digital sound bath, we also projected quotations about life which would instill the faith and provide inspiration to the users upon reading them.
Once all these elements came together, the space became a digital sound bath wherein users could come and relax their mind. The experience was made into a dark space where only upon detecting motion, would the room light up with different colours and project different ambient sounds. The result was a soothing and mind relaxing experience for the audience.
For the zones, the library Vida was used for motion detection. The light emitted was a simple rectangle than slowly fades when motion is detected. The volume of the audio files mimics this as well.
WEBGL was used to generate the calming projection which was a slowly rotating cosine and sine animated plot in 3D suing spheres. It was sound activated and glowed brighter when the level increased.
The life quotes used an array and a set interval to redraw new quotations.
The code is designed to be centralised, so although there are 14 unique programs running, they share the base code where possible. For efficiency of set up, a home page was created with buttons for each program.
For sounds, the following were tested, but only the bold were implemented as they were the most audibly pleasing combination. These high quality sounds were purchased and licensed for use.
pink-zen(D): gentle-wind.wav, ambience.wav, bells.wav
purple-elements(C): wind.wav, rain-storm.wav, thunder.wav
blue-ocean(B): humpback-whales.wav, sea-waves.wav, california-gull.wav
green-forest(A): thrush-bird.wav, robin.wav, forest-leaves.wav, cricket.wav
We used round table lamps on the floors with remote controlled LEDs that cycled through the rainbow. Two plain dim LED lamps for used for safety in dark areas. Two projectors were used, one to project the life sayings onto the screen, and another to project the soothing animation onto the ceiling. Glass jars wrapped with decorated wax paper held the phones as they light up. The wax paper was chosen to coincide with each of the zone themes, and the glass jars were tall enough to hide the majority of the screen to provide a soft glow, and short enough to keep the camera exposed as it is used for motion detection. An iPad was used at the entrance to provide context of the space. The space was decorated to simulate a Sound Bath.
When approaching this topic, our group set out to examine explore a solution where the participants would not have to physically touch their phones themselves, but instead have it as part of an experience where they walk away from it, while it aids in relaxing themselves and others. While meditatively walking around the space, their motion act as the trigger for the light and soundscape. We noticed some some participants becoming enveloped in the experience, and lying down as one would in a traditional sound bath to absorb the experience with their senses. Others entranced by the lights and affirmation, were curious about what different pleasing sounds and colours could be produced. Due to the amount of the hardware and number of programs involved, there was a lot of set up required before the room could be entered. An additional complication is that this type of set up is one where the phones are accessible to the creators, and not something the attendees bring with them into the experience.
The room initially requested was RHA 318, a smaller and more intimate space that would allow for more interaction between the lights by having them closer together, and a better layout for the projections. The room has recently gone out of service, and with the larger room, RHA 511, some of that interaction was diluted, as pointed out in the post-discussion.
Additionally, despite mentioning that participants were to just walk around to trigger the sound, many unfamiliar with the concept of a sound bath, still tried to manipulate the devices or holder, or use sound to the effects. This is likely due to the memories from the previous tactile experiments where manipulation of the elements within the experiment produced positive results.