Despite the important role that vocal communication plays in everyday life, emphasizing an intimate relationship with our own voices, we often lack the experiences and spaces to allow us to become fully aware of the profound resonance — in every sense — of our voices in our lives. We can more deeply connect with ourselves when we can understand the voice’s expressive potential as a physical instrument, can feel the intricate sensation of its vibrations, and can fully appreciate its emotional and cognitive significance as conveyed through the body.
Vocal Vibrations is a multisensory project by composer Tod Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab that attempts to encourage and inspire just this connection, exploring the power of finding one’s voice as an emotional, cognitive, and physical transformation, all in an enveloping context of immersive music. Moreover, through the Vocal Vibrations project, we propose that the singing voice could influence mental and physical health through physicochemical phenomena and in ways consistent with contemplative practices.
As part of the Vocal Vibrations experience, the ORB is a voice-activated device that allows people to feel the physical vibrations of their voices directly in their own hands, increasing the power and potential of such vibrations to influence mood, behavior and state. Fingertips contain more sensor receptors than our vocal vibrating chamber and we have found that hands can detect many variations in vibration caused by amplitude, frequency, and timbre. The materials, mapping and precise settings of the ORB have been carefully chosen chosen to maximize the tactile feeling of vibration while minimizing any audible resonance.
The ORB was created by Rebecca Kleinberger, researcher in the MIT Media Lab in Tod Machover’s Opera of the Future group and designed in collaboration with Professor Machover
, Elly Jesop and Bold Design
, and with the support of Le Laboratoire Paris
. The technology was custom-designed at the MIT Media Lab and is composed of a mini-computer, drivers, boards and custom electronics hidden in a custom cast polyurethane elastomer base. The ceramic ORB was made in porcelain as ceramic-type materials have the microstructural property of presenting no directional atomic order and guides the vibrations smoothly.
Video presenting the Vocal Vibrations Exhibition
Images of the Vocal Vibrations Installation, The Media Lab Team and the ORB
Medium: Porcelaine shell containing electronics on a polyuréthane base ( 15cm × 15cm × 20cm)
In Collaboration with: Tod Machover, Elly Jesop and BOLD Design
Photos: Julien Benayoun