Soma is a wide-ranging and ongoing project led by Bristol-based choreographer Lisa May Thomas. Lisa writes: ‘The Soma Project explores the concept of somatic agency – our experience of and capacity to sense and feel our living and moving bodies, highlighting the perception gap between seeing and feeling through the use of VR technologies’. The website for the project can be found here.

The project uses a bespoke multi-user VR environment, but takes a distinctive approach to the technology. Over the course of an hour-long performance, participants spend more time ‘onboarding’ and ‘offboarding’ than in the VR environment itself – learning a language of subtle interactions between bodies, visuals, sounds and space before entering VR, and reflecting on the experience in a shared physical space afterwards.

The sound I produced for the project (working with longterm collaborator Tom Mitchell) is similarly rather light touch. We used FMOD to develop a subtle sonification for elements in the VR world, and is was reflected in the ‘real world’ as directly and physically as possible.

In the opening section of the work we use a selection of strings (mirroring structures in the VR space) for their acoustic properties – you can see some of these in the photos below.  In the ‘residue space’ that closes out the piece we use specially-built intelligent speakers (see last photo below) – each of these contains a raspberry pi and other hardware and they are capable of producing sound, separately and networked together, with no other hardware. They are designed to be tactile, portable, playable. The sound featured here is a mix of that residue space.

The photos below show (in order) process workshops at the Wickman Theatre, University of Bristol (2018-19) followed by showings at Bloomsbury Theatre and Studio Wayne McGregor (2020 and 21).