Introducing - Natalie Barker (Musical Vibrations)

Musical Vibrations

We caught up with Musical Vibrations Natalie Barker ahead of Resonate’s tech hub workshop ‘Accessibility and Live Mixdown’ alongside SoundSense’s Chris McCarron, CenSes Prof. Barry C. Smith & Attitude Is Everything’s Jacob Adams. 

“Musical Vibrations is a new project from the Acoustics Research Unit at the University of Liverpool. It was set up to help d/Deaf and hearing people play and enjoy music together as equals, using the power of vibration.

The Musical Vibrations system is a set of vibrotactile ‘shakers’ that convert musical sounds that can be heard into musical vibrations which are felt through the skin as vibrotactile ‘feedback. At a gig we take the signals from up to six different musical instruments from the FOH or monitor mixer into the Musical Vibrations system to drive each shaker separately and a person can potentially use between two and six shakers. This multi-channel approach can potentially create a more detailed representation of the music than the vibrations created by the ‘full mix’ which you can feel when you touch a single vibrating surface or loudspeaker in a venue, and you don’t have to get too close to the FOH speakers to use the system either!

If vibrotactile technology goes more mainstream, say, into the home, or into vibrotactile wearables, new accessible music formats could develop from existing multichannel formats such as stem, so a person who is d/Deaf would download an accessible version of a song from iTunes and use it to drive separate multiple vibrotactile elements. So I’m interested in talking to artists, labels and publishers who are working with and promoting the stem format alongside mainstream formats like mp3. 

We need the whole music industry to get behind vibrotactile technology:

·         tours and engineers who will allow access to audio feeds from their mixer

·         labels and artists who accept that we are not trying to bootleg their material by doing this (we’re working with the Echo Arena in Liverpool who are really up for having the technology but reckon that the bigger tours can be a tad uncooperative when it comes to even giving an audio feed for the hearing loop system! So we need to change minds by showing how it can be done...) 

·         Venues who will set aside a space for the kit

·         Labels and publishers who will commit to supporting new ‘accessible’ music formats. 

·         Ticket agents who allow the kit to be bookable in the same way that a wheelchair space is bookable.

So, lots to do! Our website is at www.musicalvibrations.com

Check out this incredible video featuring London sign rapper SignKid.

Susan Montgomery