Reflecting on Bodily Listening in Place: An Intercultural and Intersensory Research-Creation Project



This article discusses a research-creation process by three interdisciplinary artists who worked across hearing and deaf experience to reorient aurality in musicking through a process of inter-sensorial exploration. For most musicians listening is unquestionably oriented to the sensory regime of aurality. Increasingly, however, this orientation is being challenged through haptic, kinetic, and visual musicking by deaf musicians, and this inspired hearing flutist and vocalist Ellen Waterman to reorient the role of audition in her improvisational practice. In dialogue with multisensory performance artists and critical theorists Paula Bath (hearing) and Tiphaine Girault (deaf), Waterman embarked on a research-creation project to create Bodily Listening in Place, an instructional score for intersensory improvisation. We discuss our iterative and multi-model practice-based research process, which involved the exchange of sonic, haptic, kinetic, linguistic, and graphic media in response to bodies in place. Photographs, sound, and video examples further explain our process. As is well documented in the anthropology of the senses (Howes), sensory perception is constructed and lived differently in different periods and societies, reflecting the diversity through which people perceive and understand their environments. We argue that, through an expanded conception of listening as attentiveness (Hahn; Oliveros), we can move beyond current normative notions of aurality to develop a broader, intersensory awareness and conception of musicking. Such expanded listening affords a means to further establish the links between people, their histories, experiences, senses of place, and environments.

Author Biographies

Paula Bath, SPILL.PROpagation; Concordia University

After learning American Sign Language at the age of 16, Paula Bath went on to study sign language translation, communications, and institutions & interculturalism, and to obtain a BA and MA in communications. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural analysis at Concordia University. Paula’s work is observational, conversational and brings images, texts and the senses together to explore moments when dominant social ideas, beliefs and social structures are lived, felt and discussed by people. Paula lives and works in the intermingling spaces of sign and spoken languages, ASL, LSQ, English and French.

Tiphaine Girault, SPILL.PROpagation

Originating from France, Tiphaine Girault has a BA in Graphic Novel and works in French, English and two sign languages. For over ten years Tiphaine has worked as a professional artist in comic arts, printmaking and sign language translation and performance. Her work has been featured in several exhibitions and documentaries. Tiphaine has hosted national arts leadership residencies expanding art practices in sign language with SPiLL.PROpagation, and in 2018, was honoured for her leadership in the arts in LSQ in Quebec.

Ellen Waterman, Carleton University

Ellen Waterman is Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada and Professor in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University. She is both a music scholar and a flutist specializing in creative improvisation. Ellen is founder and director of the Research Centre for Music, Sound, and Society in Canada, dedicated to exploring the complex and diverse roles that music and sonic arts play in shaping Canadian society.