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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Research project: The Trembling Line

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This project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust and the University of Southampton, explores the conceptual translations between different art-forms, acoustics and technologies, and reflects ongoing exchanges between the composers, performers and acoustic engineering staff and students.

Related research groups

Composition and Music Technology


The Trembling Line is a joint project conducted by Aura Satz during her year as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Southampton in collaboration with the Department of Music, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), and the John Hansard Gallery, the University's contemporary art gallery. Drawing on the concept of Wagner's radical design for the Bayreuth Theatre's Orchestral Pit, whereby the musicians are completely hidden under the stage, invisible to the audience, this project aims to uncover the strange visuality of sound, music and acoustics, which for the most part hover in the realm of the hidden or invisible.


The main research output is an exhibition of works by Aura Satz exploring acoustics, vibration, sound visualisation and musical gesture with an aim to wrest the space between sound and image, to see how far these can be stretched apart before they fold back into one another. The title, The Trembling Line, refers in part to the basic principle of vibration, a tense line stimulated into motion and sound through friction, but also to the possibility of challenging static notation systems and destabilizing the experience of seeing and hearing. The centrepiece of the show is the film and sound installation The Trembling Line, which explores visual and acoustic echoes between decipherable musical gestures and abstract patterning, orchestral swells and extreme slow-motion close-ups of strings and percussion. The exhibition includes The Absorbing Wall (2015), along with five closely inter-connected films: Vocal Flame (2012), Oramics: Atlantis Anew (2011), Onomatopoeic Alphabet (2010), Theremin (2009), Automamusic (2008). The Absorbing Wall provides an acoustic vacuum, a silent nexus separating the various films. Five photographic stills of the ISVR’s large anechoic chamber convey a visual patterning of sound-absorbing elements, positioned in off-kilter angles that break away from the geometric regularity typically associated with the space. The installation features a score by Leo Grant, projected through an innovative spatial audio rendering system built by the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research as part of the S3A research project on immersive listening.


Many of the 3D audio technologies were developed by the research team of the S3A project, an EPSRC-supported programme grant. The multi-channel speaker array is devised as an intimate sound spatialisation system in which each element of sound can be pried apart and reconfigured, to create a dynamically disorienting sonic experience. The sound sphere becomes the inside of a musical instrument, an acoustic envelope or cage of sorts, through which viewers are invited to experience the film and generate cross-sensory connections and counterpoints between the sound and the visuals.





Aura Satz

The Trembling Line

Aura Satz

The Trembling Line
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