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Ryerson University’s Centre of Learning Technology and the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) Lab have been working on the Alternative Sensory Information Displays (ASID) project to develop a ‘musical chair’ precisely made to induce vibrant emotions to deaf people thanks to music (ouch, that was a tough one).

20081022_emotichair

In other words, the ‘Emoti Chair’ as they call it is built to bring musical pleasure to the deaf and the hearing impaired. The chair has a multitude of build-in speakers and vibrating devices delicately calibrated to “translate music and sound into movement. Whether it be rocking or vibrations, the music can be heard through the movement of the chair, expressing to the person sitting, the emotion heard in sound”. Music becomes the medium and the vibration became the generated art form (I remember citing a similar sentence in my post on Daito Manabe’s facial experiments, also extremely related to that audio-tactile realm of manipulating sounds and music)

The concept in itself is already a beautiful and a revolutionary one, opening our beloved musical world to the hard hearing people, but it is also an intriguing and very interesting means of experiencing music like never before.

Reading testimonials from the deaf people who experienced the chair really got me thinking about how personal and subjective a musical stimulus can be. Ellen Hibbard, a deaf PhD candidate in Ryerson’s Communications and Culture program explains: “The first time I used the chair, I was blown away by the amount of information I could get about music from the vibrations” . “For the first time in my life, I could feel sad or happy because of how the music vibrations felt on my skin. I never felt those kinds of feelings before when music was played.” She even goes on to saying she experienced flashbacks triggered by the vibrations of the music, much like music constitutes an amazing memory buffer for us all.

And here’s another interesting quote I found by Frank Russo, director of SMART Lab, who took a prototype of the chair to the Bob Rumball Center for the deaf: “It seemed that deaf people were able to identify the emotions that a hearing person would. The people became really animated, they would just dance in the chair and many of these people have been deaf from birth”.

Beautiful…just beautiful. Let alone the fact that music is made inaccessible to you if you’re deaf, so is dancing and singing. The technology behind these experiments may change that in a not-so-distant-future.

And so to get to the original point of this post, the second ever concert for the deaf (they had already tried out a test gig I think somewhere) is taking place in Toronto’s Clinton’s Tavern on March 5th, with a series of Canadian performers and bands (that I’m discovering while I’m writing this here article) such as Hollywood Swank, The Dufraines, Fox Jaws, Dj Stephane Vera and some other acts that you can actually see on this flyer I just found.

I contacted a couple of guys from Hollywood Swank (the drummer from Hollywood Swank, Carmen Branje is apparently one of the main organizers of the event and has worked on the development of the chairs as a student at Ryerson) and The Dufraines and here is what they go to say about the gig:

rehab1I think its a pretty cool opportunity for us to be involved with the event. There’s gonna be a few genre’s of bands at the show and I guess there will be a number of deaf people there coming up and trying the chair while we’re playing, so it’s a cool way to connect with the audience on a totally new and unique level.

Donny from Hollywood Swank

foxjaws1As far as playing we’re amazed. The concept and the whole idea is crazy and we couldn’t be more excited to play. This is the kind of show that will carry the fondest memories of any show we are likely to play, ever.

Dan from Fox Jaws

concertflyer1
So there, for all of you living in Toronto, I wouldn’t miss out on this, and If ever you go, I’de love it if you could leave your comments and impressions on this post (would be great to have it streamed live or something. I’ll see if my doggy psychology will help me convince someone).

Mruff!

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