What does it mean to "feel" a song?
this is not science is an exploration of the physical experience of sound and its affect on emotion. The title is reflective of my intention to create a performance piece based purely around the physical sensation of music, rather than to create an actual experiment in music therapy.
The piece involves a cellist (in this case, myself), an electric cello, and a participant who wears a neoprene garment that is connected to the cello amplifier. A bass shaker and paper speaker are sewn into the garment so that when the cello is played, the participant feels the vibrations triggered by the sound.
To construct the garment, I chose neoprene fabric for its compression qualities. The corset style allows the piece to be worn by participants of various widths without sacrificing the compression, which enhances the experience of the components reacting to the music.
The speaker is fashioned out of stiff but lightweight paper, copper tape, and neodymium magnets and is connected to one side of the amplifier output. Sewn to the front of the garment, the speaker can be activated by holding the magnet close to the center of the copper tape spiral. It should be noted that the magnet could also be sewn between the neoprene and the speaker to keep it turned on permanently. I intentionally gave the magnet to the wearer to hold because the sensation generated by the speaker is subtle, and it could be helpful to compare the two states of on/off.
Sewn to the top of the garment are the 8Ohm bass shaker “puck” and a band of hand needle-felted wool. The vibration of the bass shaker is stronger than that of the speaker; I positioned it over the wearer’s chest so as not to cause stomach distress. The puck weighs about 11 oz., so a layer of neoprene to keep it secured to the garment covers it. The wool is attached for the user's comfort – if she places her hand over the puck, the sensation won’t be jarring for her.
Once the piece is connected to the amplifier and secured to the participant, each note played on the cello can be felt. Because the electric cello uses a piezo sensor, I had posited that the wearer could feel a range of intensity depending on the type of note (e.g. a sforzando note, which is strong, sudden, and loud, would cause a sharp, intense vibration).
After user testing, however, I found the effect was less dramatic: the wearer reported feeling slight to moderate differences in the intensity but the garment caused a sense of comfort overall, regardless of the type of note played. On the contrary, she reported a feeling of consistent comfort while the cello was being played. I am, therefore, considering it to be the starting point for a series of explorations of therapeutic uses of technology and music that I will continue in the future.