Healing Soundscapes

One ongoing project which caught a lot of attention from various parties is the “Healing Soundscapes” project. The idea for this interdisciplinary endeavor came from Prof. Dr. Debus (head of Hearth center at UKE), who approached Prof. Dr. Weymann (head of Music therapy department at HfMT) and suggested that something should be done with the sonic environment in the UKE clinic. The inclusion of Prof. Dr. Georg Hajdu further expanded the basic concept, and the concrete project was envisioned as a set of interactive installations for various rooms in the hospital, using different kinds of sensory inputs and algorithmic compositional principles.

                In this project we have addressed the question as to how interventions via interactive, generative music systems (i.e. sound installations) may contribute to the improvement of the atmosphere and thus to the well-being of patients in hospital waiting rooms. The project was conducted both by students of the music therapy and multimedia composition programs and has thus offered rare insights into the dynamic of such undertakings, covering both the therapeutic underpinnings as well as the technical means required to achieve a particular result. DJster, the engine we used for the generative processes is based on Clarence Barlow’s probabilistic algorithms. Combined with the proper periphery (sensors, sound modules and spatializers), we looked at different scenarios, each requiring specific musical and technological solutions.

                During the first two semesters, students of both music therapy and multimedia composition, guided by Prof. Dr. Weymann, Prof. Dr. Debus, Prof. Dr. Jann Sontag and Prof. Dr. Georg Hajdu, were experimenting and researching on the current state of affairs in acoustics and sound environment in hospitals and other healing establishments. At the time of writing of this article, the project has been joined by students of Systematic musicology from the Hamburg University, led by Prof. Dr. Clemens Wöllner. This inclusion resulted in a number of purely scientific student projects dealing, for example, with stress levels and oxygen consumption.

                The first installation is set-up in the private waiting room of the Heart Clinic at the UKE hospital, where it will run and be evaluated by the patients and the staff. Since the project is dealing with many of the hot topics in the current society (health, quality of life, interdisciplinarity, real-time generated music etc.), it is being highly praised and a few other institutions are showing signs of interest for similar cooperation.