Inside Us
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for solo vocalist, choir, audio tracks, multiple video projections, 3 televisions, and turntable [45′]

Commission: Western Front with funds from the Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Laura Swankey with DB Boyko and the VOICE OVER mind Choir, February 8, 2018 at the Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front, Vancouver

Inside Us invites listeners into the acoustic poetry of the body’s interior. Vocal soundscape combines with diagnostic ultrasound recordings, giving voice to the rhythms of the circulatory and respiratory systems. Attentive listening dissolves notions of scale and place: from the constrained intensity of vessels leading to the brain to the cavernous resonance of blood as it washes from the liver back into the heart. Percolating through the immersive sounds of the installation, members of the VOICE OVER mind choir share moments of awareness of heartbeat or breath. Many of these recollections come from “the edges of life”.

Inside Us evolved during an artistic residency at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Research Institute. Through conversations with scientists and clinicians, I’ve begun to grasp the complexities and power of biomedical imaging. Riding my bicycle to and from the hospital, I started to see how physics and mathematics manifest in the everyday world around me. The video is a visual diary of parallel processes scavenged from my inner and outer journeys: fluid dynamics, breathing of trees, fluttering of moths, bubbles, drops and flows.

A custom-cut disc on the turntable features ultrasound Doppler recordings of arterial blood flow on Side A and venous flow on Side B and is the springboard for vocal improvisations by the soloist.

Ultrasound Doppler technology allows real-time imaging of blood flow at precise locations in the body. The audio output is not the sound of the heart beating, but rather the frequency shift as sound from a a transducer is directed towards the body, bounces off moving blood cells and then returns to the transducer. The resulting doppler shift conveys speed, pressure and direction. The development of this imaging method has gone hand in hand with advances in computing technology, allowing for higher resolution and greater precision. Meanwhile, bats, dolphins, porpoises and whales use bio-sonar to locate and catch their prey — their own bodies the site of technology humans still struggle to fully comprehend.

Artistic residency at Sunnybrook Research Institute funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
Ultrasound diagnostic recordings made with the assistance of: Paul Sheeran, Peter Burns and Caroline Maloney at Sunnybrook Research Institute.