SONIC WHISPERS – Bibliobeats Festival Workshops at Barnsley Libraries

Commission by Barnsley Council

Taking place at The Lightbox in Barnsley centre and at Hoyland Library in May 2023, Sonic Whispers was part of Bibliobeats music festival in Barnsley and explored the creative possibilities of music through the mind of someone with Synesthesia. Ran by Emma Denby and Carl Cole, who both have Synesthesia, these workshops were open for anyone to listen to music whilst visually responding to the sounds which various instruments make.

With Carl playing instruments varying from a zaphoon to chime bars and an acoustic guitar to a transducer attached to a spring! Emma gave examples of what her experience is with Synesthesia and invited participants to think imaginatively about how different sounds can be described through the visual language of drawing. Using bright coloured markers, pencils and paint pens, we ran various activities such as continuous line drawing mixed with musical chairs, drawing our own pictures and then asking Carl to respond musically, and creating a large scale drawing, collaborating with everyone whilst responding to a longer piece of music.

As well as having an enjoyable time spent with others and exploring the individuals creativity, we also learnt that patterns began to emerge from participants, and even when drawing with our eyes closed, we exhibited similar responses to certain types of sounds from the different instruments!! It was fascinating to see that, although sometimes the colours varied dramatically, the shapes usually conformed to the same patterns.

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