You know how sometimes at a party an idea will come to you that not only changes the rest of the night but which is so simple and effective that the whole experience goes down in history? Well, that’s how Laura’s Doity Bucket (to be said in a Devon or Zummerrzet accent) came to exist. Let me explain…
During an impromptu soiree with friends, it was decided that the sound system in use was, shall we say, below par? I’m almost embarrassed to admit to not owning a decent sound system in my home, despite music being so important to me. That said, I do own 2 iPods and have a DAB radio in every room of the house. I’m alternating between 3 different sets of earphones at the moment as well, but that’s because I either lose them or else I find myself stranded somewhere without some; I’d rather use the bus fare to buy headphones and walk home than travel on a bus with no music. Whilst my choice of music that night was not in question, my tinny computer speakers were spitting out the tunes in a manner which was anything but party like and this was not acceptable. Ever the problem solver, I had an idea: I had recently purchased a small, Bluetooth speaker which had remarkably good sound quality, considering it was barely 3 inches high. So far, so good, the improvement was tangible, but it was still a bit on the quiet side. ‘Ooh, I know…!’ and off I ran into the kitchen, on a mission to improve the volume but without compromising quality. I returned with my tall, cylindrical, plastic bin, minus the rubbish, of course. We spent far longer than is probably healthy with our heads in that bucket, breathing in the bass as we became a part of the new and improved speaker, absorbing the sound through every sense, filling our bodies up with pure music. Two years on a technical theatre BA course and my tech skills had progressed to putting a speaker in a bucket-go me! However, the creation of a symbiotic creature of music, and in particular bass, had unknowingly sown the seed for my creative project; it still needed some watering, but this is where festivals factor into the equation.
My first experience of a UK festival was when I attended Boomtown Fair in its 2nd year. I had read a short article about the 1st one whilst at a soft play centre with my youngest and I thought it sounded fab, so I looked into it a little more, discovered Toots and his Maytals would be playing at the next one and started saving up for the tickets. Company aside (my now ex-husband) I had a ball at Boomtown that year and was hooked on every aspect of the festival scene. I was such a late starter but I was more than happy to play catch up. Subsequently attending Boomtown Fair on 3 successive years on my own had given me all the confirmation I needed to know that my future career plans lay in the festival industry. In September of this year we all had a family jolly to the newly formed Equinox Festival, born from the ashes of the old Alchemy Festival, down in Lincolnshire. I’d suggested it to friends who went to Alchemy last year and loved it; a strange series of events and 12 months later and I was joining them, along with my two kids and a few others who fancied a weekend in a field.
Saturday night found me in one of the smaller music tents, listening to a DJ play a set which was littered with deep bass mixes. I moved ever closer to the speaker stack; a familiar manoeuvre for me in such situations, when health and safety gets pushed aside to make the extra space required for the bass to drop. As I stood with my back against the stack, head tilted back to breathe the tunes in ever deeper, I opened my eyes to see a young woman holding a balloon in both hands, motioning for me to hold it similarly as I stood against my wall of sound. The resulting reaction, as she repeatedly shrieked ‘I know!’ as I stood there mouthing ‘Oh my god!’ made some very silly but very happy memories. I stayed in the tent with her for another hour or so, I think, probably looking like a right pair of crazies, as we tried variations on the balloon theme; a balloon against each ear and back to the stack, a balloon between the forehead/chest/ear and the speaker, forehead in stack with balloon on each ear, the possibilities were ridiculous. The intensity of emotion as the deep, low vibrations of the bass pumped their way through the speakers and into my body, making my chest feel ready to burst and every hair stand on end across my body is a feeling I only get from music. The seeds for my creative project were watered a little more and upon returning to reality, I set about trying to think of a project I could design and build myself which could create that level of emotion.
The resulting ‘Bass in a Bubble’ idea was my attempt to recreate that intensity caused by the balloon and the bass, when I thought my head was going to explode, but in the nicest way possible. Holding a balloon whilst almost climbing inside the speaker stack felt amazing; imagine having a balloon that you could drape your entire body around, having the vibrations coursing through your whole body via the larger surface area making contact with the balloon. I had visions of large hamster balls with bass bins in them, in a micro venue tent with other festival styled decor. Who could resist a bass bin in a bubble?
After explaining my vague initial idea with my tutor, and being predictably mocked for it, I became aware, for the first time, of the concept of tactile sound. In hindsight, I should have known there would be a scientific name behind the feeling I had always loved so much, I just didn’t know I needed to know it. Until now…
Due to a lifetime of substandard sinuses, I often suffer from middle ear issues. With my Eustachian tubes full of goodness only knows what, my hearing is affected, to varying degrees, and it drives me insane. The frustration I feel when I can’t hear my music in proper stereo, because I’m down to about 20% hearing on one side, is overwhelming. I’ve been struggling along with reduced hearing for months now, including through the festival season, and it’s been rough going in places. But that strange woman with a balloon gave me a new route to enjoying music, and volume wasn’t a key factor-bass was. Those long, slow vibrations which can penetrate deep muscle tissue, sending neurological impulses surging towards the brain’s sound receptors are where I need to start focusing my attentions. I can’t hear the music in the conventional way, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling it in other ways.
Tactile sound it is then. Or is it…?