5Hz, 2015


5Hz is a collaborative project to imagine an evolution of voice for the purpose of social bonding, based on biomedical and psychological research into vocal rhythm.

In the recent history of human evolution the voice has primarily been used for spoken language. However, beyond 100,000 years ago, how our ancestors used their power of voice remains a mystery. A possibility suggested by some current research is that the voice originally evolved for the purpose of song. Led by artist Emma Smith, psychologist and phonetician Laurence White, cognitive neuroscientist and psycholinguist Nina Kazanina and musicologist Emma Hornby, the project explores the power of the voice to connect us to one another.

5Hz is the evolution of a new means of communication that imagines how we might sound had we prioritised human connection over the communication of explicit information in our development.

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, 5Hz involved a one-year participatory research process, leading to public workshops and events in autumn 2014 and an exhibition at Arnolfini in March 2015.

The public were invited to join in a series of public events and experiments throughout 2014, including live brain recordings while listening to choral performances, language evolution workshops, and talks and workshops by eminent scientists – phoneticians, psychologists, neuroscientists – and musicologists, contributing to the development of the artwork and final interactive installation.

The 5Hz exhibition introduces audiences to this new vocal practice through interactive events and installations including a language school installation where visitors can try the language themselves, the presentation of the language’s visual transcription, an interactive sound library and research space, online experiments, and an events space, where a programme of choral performances, workshops, activities, talks and discussions explore aspects of human voice.

For more information see www.5hz.info.

5Hz is produced by Arnolfini in collaboration with the University of Bristol, Plymouth University and with the support of the Wellcome Trust. The 5Hz events programme is also supported by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2014.