Home Cart Listen Calendar Contact

Bodily Listening in Place

A score for World Listening Day 2022

© Ellen Waterman, May 2022

Click Here to Enjoy Score Realizations

Click Here to Upload a Score Realization


Bodily Listening in Place is an instructional score made for the New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) call for participants to record realizations for any recorded medium for World Listening Day, July 18, 2022. Recordings will be shared in a gathering of participants and will also be made available through NAISA’s website. A selection of recordings will also be included in an intersensory exhibition at the NAISA North Media Arts Centre in South River, Ontario.

Anyone, of any experience and from any location, is invited to participate. You are encouraged to interpret the score and express yourself according to your body’s way of perceiving the world, and your understanding of music. Bodily Listening in Place is an accessible score, available in text, audio, and video with ASL translation. It is for solo or collaborative improvisation. Ellen Waterman led preparatory workshops on June 19 and 26 in 2022 that introduced improvisation and intersensory listening.

World Listening Day is coordinated annually by the World Listening Project. The theme for 2022, Listening Across Boundaries, was suggested by marine biologist and sound artist Dr. Heather Spence who states: “Boundary is left open for interpretation. So, it could be a physical boundary, a perceived boundary, a shifting boundary.” She challenges us to explore “ways in which we could be more inclusive in the way we listen.”

Bodily Listening in Place invites you to improvise music across sensory boundaries in response to sonic, kinetic, visual, and haptic stimuli. Any combination of movement, image, and/or sound in attentive response to an environment is a valid interpretation of the score.

Why improvise across sensory boundaries? In my improvisation practice, I am working to decentre, and thus reorient, audition through play with visual, kinetic, and haptic senses so that I can be a more empathetic and attentive listener. As musician and dancer Tomie Hahn notes, “If we consider that we inhabit different sensory worlds–personally and culturally–then building awareness of the sensibilities someone else might be experiencing can expand our knowledge of self/other and open communications.” [1]

The piece was inspired by Pamela Witcher who introduced me to the beautiful world of Signed Music, a visual and kinetic genre of music that has emerged from Deaf culture. [2] In developing the piece, I was privileged to consult with Paula Bath and Tiphaine Girault of SPiLL Propagation Artist Center for Creation and Production in Sign Language in Canada. [3] Thanks to David Bobier for making the Woojer vibrotactile vest available and to Tiphaine and Paula for showing me how much I have to learn about touch.


Gather the materials you will use in recording your improvisation. For example, instruments, objects, technology, art materials, clothing, audio or video recorders. Acceptable formats include audio and video recordings, photographs, drawings, and writing. For audio/video, aim for 5 to 15 minutes.

Submissions can be uploaded to NAISA. Files should be less than 1 GB in size and have your name and Bodily Listening included in the filename.

1. Place…up to a week before recording

Place is any environment where you choose or have capacity to improvise, whether that means in your home, a forest, or an urban setting. You are part of this environment. Visit your place several times. Pay attention to the atmosphere and texture of your surroundings, around, under, over, and on your body. How is your place affected by time of day, by weather? Write, draw, photograph, or record your responses to this place.

2. Body…take 20 minutes or more just before you record your improvisation

Body means all kinds of bodies, whatever our background, age, size, mobility, sensory, or cognitive modes. Breathe. Check in with your body without comparison or judgement. Pay attention to how your body feels, how it occupies space. Note stiffness, tingles, and aches. Which parts are warmer, cooler? How does your clothing move with, or constrain, you? Warm up your body in any way that works for you: stretching, bending, rubbing hands, patting skin, flexing and relaxing muscles, dancing, smiling. Breathe. How does your body feel now?

3. Listen…the piece starts now. Be patient with yourself and take your time.

Listening is not the same as hearing. It is a form of active and receptive attention. Listen with heart and mind, eye and ear, nose and tongue, flesh and bone. Breathe. Be attentive to all the sensory information available to you in this moment. Focus and refocus your attention. Listen inside and out, up and down, underneath and all around, near and far–listen deeply. [4]

4. Improvise…express yourself in response to bodily listening in place.

To improvise is to be in relation with self and others in the moment. Listen, respond, and collaborate with your sensory environment. Shift your listening attention away from your dominant sense. For example, if you usually orient towards sound, open your eyes and look. If you are primarily visual, close your eyes and feel. Respond to anything and everything in the environment through whatever expressive means you choose. Try not to censor or judge your expressions. Let them emerge as they want to in the moment and honour the results.

Optional Variations

Iterative improvisation. Record several improvisations in your place and edit or combine the results afterwards. Take an iterative approach – improvise, record, review, then improvise in response to that recording etc. Feel free to use and/or combine different media.

Co-creative improvisation. We are all interdependent. Feel free to collaborate with other people in interpreting the score. How do our bodies listen in relation to each other?


[1]Tomie Hahn, Arousing Sense: Recipes for Workshopping Sensory Experience, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2021.

[2] Signed Music: Rhythm of the Heart.

[3] SPiLL Propagation. I’m grateful to Darren Copeland for the commission and residency that gave me the space and time to develop Bodily Listening in Place, and to the Canada Council for the Arts for funding it.

[4] Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice, New York: iUniverse Inc., 2005.

Ellen Waterman with lake background

Ellen Waterman at Deer Lake, Warbler’s Roost, South River

Ellen Waterman’s distinctive musical practice seamlessly blends flutes and vocalization. She has performed at national and international festivals and venues including Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound, the Guelph Jazz Festival, the Suoni Per Il Popolo, and the Onassis Stegi in Athens. Ellen has also been artist-in-residence for several festivals, including The Art of Immersive Soundscapes (U. Regina), Sound Travels Festival (Toronto), and the Chicago Creative Music Workshop (Chicago Jazz Festival). In 2014 and 2018 she participated in the Koumaria Residency in Sellasia, Greece. In the 1980s and ‘90s she performed in a number of R. Murray Schafer’s Patria series of environmental music theatre works and he composed the solo flute pieces Aubade and Nocturne (1996) for her. Ellen is represented on premiere recordings of works by Brian Ferneyhough (CRICD 652), R. Murray Schafer (CMCCD 8902, MW72) and ~spin~ duo with James Harley (ADAPPS 15001). Her current projects include the improvisation duo Pama with Michael Waterman (theremin and invented instruments). Ellen holds the Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada at Carleton University where she directs the research centre for Music, Sound, and Society in Canada.