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How the SoundPlay Dome encourages exploration and experimentation through music

See Learn Share Experience with Soundplay DomeEllie Turner

Soundplay Dome

As a designer of interactive materials and objects, I am always fascinated by other people’s approach to interaction and engagement. When I first stumbled upon the work of Ewan Sinclair and Bal Cooke, the creators of the sensory musical space, Soundplay Dome, I was immediately intrigued and excited by it. The Dome is an interactive, portable structure comprising of different musical and visual elements that allow participants to explore and experiment with sound.

Ewan and Bal both have experience working with and facilitating work for individuals with support needs and this also drew me to their work. As I create fabric-based work to create stimulating experiences for individuals with support needs, I was particularly interested in how Soundplay Dome could provide similar experiences through music. Through Creative Scotland’s See Learn Share Fund I was able to spend time with Ewan and Bal, learning how music and interactive technology could create meaningful and engaging play experiences when integrated with innovative design.

Ellie Turner's design

What I set out to learn from my time with Ewan and Bal was an understanding of the musical and technical elements of Soundplay Dome, how they set this up and controlled it, and if there was the possibility to test an idea together.

I had two visits with Soundplay Dome, the first a weekend in Dundee at the Science Centre as part of their small tour around Scotland, and the second an interactive workshop at their studio in Paisley.

The first visit with Soundplay Dome consisted of a full weekend spent helping to build the Dome and set up the tech and assisting open sessions in the Dome. It was brilliant to see the Dome come to life as I helped to construct it and then to see it in action as the participants interacted with it. Ewan and Bal showed me the various elements of the set-up and showed me how each individual piece worked.

My experience with Soundplay Dome was a brilliant creative learning opportunity and it’s given me lots of ideas about how I can integrate technology and music into my own practice- Ellie Turner

What became apparent during the sessions was how important the layout of the Dome was, the different musical and material elements all very clearly spaced and considered in their environment. Using a small portable controller, Bal was able to control all of the elements within the Dome, both musical and visual, and adjust according to the participants. Before the sessions began, a drone noise would be introduced which acted as the first element of sound for the participants.

On entering the Dome, people could explore and interact with some of the instruments such as a wooden circular board with long strips of conductive tape acting like keys on a piano. Only a selection of the instruments and visual elements would be on at this point, so no one was overwhelmed and the session could be built up as it went on. It was also clear that the instruments were designed in a way to make them ‘no instruction’ instruments, easily accessible and interactive for anyone. It was lovely to see the different ways the participants interacted with the instruments.

I knew that I wanted to test out an idea during the creative learning experience with Soundplay Dome and I was able to do this during my second visit. The workshop was another opportunity to interact within the Dome and listen to a short presentation from Ewan and Bal about their individual backgrounds and journey so far with Soundplay Dome.

During my first visit, I learned from Ewan and Bal about conductive thread which they use in one of their instruments to trigger sound through touch. I bought some conductive thread and conductive material and tested out a basic screen-print onto the material. I brought the material to the workshop and was able to connect it up using crocodile clips and a small synthesizer called an Ototo. The result of this was that the fabric successfully acted as a sensor and through touching it or hovering your hand above it, it triggered a sound.

My experience with Soundplay Dome was a brilliant creative learning opportunity and it’s given me lots of ideas about how I can integrate technology and music into my own practice. The See Learn Share Fund allowed me to explore an area that I was interested in, but unfamiliar with, and I’m looking forward to integrating my learning into the next piece of work I create.