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Student Work: Yoga Breathing

Four tracks from my sound course

The work shared below is a segment of a project by a student, Karina Saroyan, enrolled in the course I teach at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco. The course is about the role of sound in the media landscape. Saroyan’s four audio tracks were part of an in-class presentation she gave this past Wednesday. Each of the course’s students (there are a dozen or so) give a short, ten-minute presentation at some point during the semester. The presentations don’t begin until several weeks in, at least until we’ve gotten the initial three class sessions done — those are focused on learning to listen, in part through exercises and in part through reflections on history, media, commerce, physiology and other useful perspectives.

The in-class student presentations are research projects, but the instruction is to focus the research on something that is already important to the student: i.e., don’t go researching the physiology of the human ear if you’re not already a biology nut; instead, pay attention to the sounds in your hobby (painting), or favorite sport (tennis), or place of employment (there was a great presentation several semesters back about the cosmetics counter). Saroyan focused her presentation on yoga, in particular on the breathing, and as part of the project she uploaded these four audio tracks of her performing key breathing practices: ujjahi, alternate nostril, lion’s breath, and skull shining breath:

As someone who has practiced yoga on and off for close to two decades, and who recently has begun exploring tai chi, I was reminded in Saroyan’s work that for all the physicality of breathing, there is a specifically sonic aspect by which one can gauge one’s form. It was also a useful reminder than not all vocal sounds are verbal — that, in fact, some aren’t even produced in the same manner we generally associate with vocal sounds.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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One Comment

  1. Miranda
    [ Posted November 13, 2013, at 5:42 pm ]

    Reading this makes me realize how I need to listen to the world around me more carefully–there are a lot of connections I’ve missed. Your mention of Tai Chi, something I associate with silence, made me take a minute go through a few Tai Chi-like movements (I have limited knowledge of the practice). I was thrilled to hear the sound of my clothes pulling and brushing across my body–I’d never heard that before. I can see how this kind of listening might enhance the experience of exercise, in the same way deep breathing can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, not to mention lessen stress.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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