Justine Flynn

Senior Lecturer in Music and Audio Arts

School of Journalism, Media and Performance

Media Factory, ME224

+44 (0) 1772 89 4294

Subject Areas: Performing Arts

Justine has lectured in Music & Audio Arts since 2001, teaching both post graduate and undergraduate students experimental composition, professional practice and dissertation. She is a practicing audio/visual and interdisciplinary artist who has installed, exhibited and performed conceptual and contemporary work both nationally and internationally. Her current research 'Imponderable Sound' uses infrasonic frequencies, within its composition, as a stimulus for haptic perception.


BA (Hons) Music & the Creative Arts with Performance Technology (UCLan 2000).


2012 July. 10-15 Imponderable Sound One: Pipedream. EVA



Imponderable Sound: Using infrasonic frequencies as a stimulus for haptic perception within sonic art installations


To construct sonic art installations incorporating infrasonic vibrations, Imponderable Sound.

To survey and analyse responses to Imponderable Sound sonic art installations that incorporate infrasound.

To determine whether different infrasonic frequencies used in Imponderable Sound sonic art installations result in different audience responses.

Infrasound (sound that operates below the average hearing spectrum (Everest 2000)) is a vibration that can be detected through the body via the bones, skin and internal organs (Weber 1996) and is then interpreted by the brain via the auditory cortex (Shibata 2001) in the same way that music is interpreted when sensed by the ears. This sensation is known as haptic perception (Hatwell 2003).

This means that by using infrasound as a means of physical vibration within sound art, the body can be affected through its tactile sensory receptors to add a new dimension to sonic installations by the addition of ‘touch’.
Vic Tandy (1998) is a scientist that has carried out extensive research into the effects of 17 Hz on the human body. He found that this particular frequency caused the individual to hallucinate or see ghosts. Based on Tandy’s research of haunted sites, Sarah Angliss (2003) carried out an experiment called ‘Infrasonic; Soundless Music’ and held two contemporary music concerts at the Purcell rooms in London. She masked a 17Hz frequency alongside an electronics piece. She reported that infrasound increased the number of ‘strange experiences’ in the audience by twenty two per cent. Reports included a sense of coldness, anxiety and shivers down the spine. (ibid)

Artists who already use frequencies that resonate below the audible frequency spectrum do so without any detailed understanding of how and why it affects the human body in a particular way. ‘Live room’ (Bain 1998) was a site specific installation using equipment that enhanced the movement of air through vibration, in direct relationship to the room and building in an attempt to ‘tune in’ the location using resonant frequencies.
Ghost station (2007) by Kristen Roos was an installation that was contained in a disused railway tunnel; Lower Bay Station. The installation contained sounds that were within and below the threshold of the hearing spectrum that is, “infrasound and tactile sound: were sound is felt rather than heard”. Roos states that the vibratory sound has been associated with the paranormal and ghostly sightings, however offers no information regarding any particular frequencies he may have used or indeed why he has used it, and seems content with the vibratory aspect of the installation.

‘Infrasound’ (Arford, Yau, 2006) suggests that his piece is not about music, it is about how you can provoke new ways to hear with the body and perceive sound and invariably trigger “autonomous psycho- physiological responses”. It is about the resonance or sympathetic vibration “all things working in one continuum”. In an interview with Kathleen Maloney (2005), Arford commented on the frequencies he used, these were between 20 Hz to 100 Hz. He generated sine waves which were slightly detuned , a difference of, in some cases, 0.1 Hz to create a beating pattern “similar to the waving and shimmering sounds you hear when strumming notes on a guitar that are out of tune”. Arford and Yau’s work used intense vibrations to resonate the space and to create psycho, physiological responses in the audience. Although the piece is entitled infrasound, the frequency range that Arford revealed within the interview with Maloney were not in the infrasonic range. Infrasonic frequencies were, however, created by using two sine waves with a differential of 1 Hz, which, in this case, is how the term infrasonic has been associated; what they have actually created are in fact binaural beat frequencies (Hume 2006).

‘Interactive Infrasonic Installation’ (IIE) (Gupfinger 2009) interrelates aural sound with tactile sound to create an experience for the whole body. Gupfinger generates an auditory climate for the audience to experiment with the vibrations in the space and “goes beyond the borders of human hearing and acoustic perception”. The installation consists of a 250-inch long organ pipe and a wind generator along with a video-tracking system. The audience can affect the sound in the space optimising their understanding of infrasound (Camponelli 2009). Cat Hope (2010) is a composer working particularly with infrasound and explores the interaction between the body and infrasonic frequencies, she uses up to 25 bass guitars to create the sound in both performed works and installations. Her present piece ‘Reduxis’ is a “very low Hz piece for 25 basses, performed in a locked gallery, the audience outside” (Lockwood 2009). Lockwood (ibid.) reports on an earlier work of Hopes which she claims she became entirely aware of sound waves running through her body, and stated “the power of involuntary collaboration...the whole body hears.”

Hope (2009) claims we need to listen to organised vibration in order to perceive it. She makes distinctions between hearing and listening and talks of sensing sound in other ways. She claims infrasonic sound pushes the dimensions of silence, acousmatic music and sound art even further by combining new ideas of listening with the physiological possibilities of the listeners themselves. Hope uses bass guitars and amplifiers within her performances often placed underneath the audiences seats. She does not discuss the possibility of an automatic response or indeed the ability to induce a desired understanding by using specific frequencies. Infrasound is both a natural and manmade phenomenon and occurs in, for example, volcanic eruption and wind turbines and can be reproduced both acoustically and digitally. Playback of digitally created infrasound can be through specialist subwoofers, bass amplifiers and rotary speakers and acoustically through aesthetic sculptures which have been designed to emit acoustic infrasonic frequencies in a similar way to bass instruments such as the Octobass (developed by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875)), Long String Instrument (developed by Ellen Fullman), Giant Taiko Drum and Hyperbass Flute (developed by Roberto Fabbriciani). That is the production of infrasound can be explored by using the resonance of strings, skin/fabric and tubing and arranging these basic components into an aesthetic sculpture.

Imponderable Sound is my appellation for sonic art that is inaudible and concentrates on the production of infrasonic frequencies or infrasound. The first installation, ‘Imponderable Sound One: Pipedream’ is based on Tandy and Angliss’s research: it draws on the 17Hz frequency in its composition and differs from Angliss experiment as it takes a reductionist approach in its compositional make up and is not masked by any other music or sound. Imponderable Sound Two: Venus again draws on the 17 Hz frequency and extreme transposition of Julia Usher's composition 'Venus' for Flute and Clarinet. Imponderable Sound Three: Reflection is the largest of the installations consisting of a twenty metre mirrored tube, activated by a 50 Hz fan and infrasound.

Imponderable Sound Three: Reflection

External Activities

2012 Poppycock Contemporary Theatre group

2012 External advisor for Salford University. New foundation degrees at Manchester College. Music production & Music Performance

2009 New Continental arts Pub. South meadow Lane. Preston

Teaching Activities and Responsibilities

Module Leader RP2004 Professional Practice

Module Leader MU1001 Creative Performance Workshop

Module Leader MZ3000 Principles in Composition

Module Leader MZ4001 Professional Presentation


2012 Electronic Visualisation in the Arts 2012 (EVA), London