Category Archives: Hums

Publicly humming…

Just a quick post to point out that, as the humming piece is my first involving a flash mob in a public place, I am unsure of how much information I can divulge in this blog before the event without prejudicing the piece itself. Therefore, please forgive the vagueness of posts relating to it.

I have deleted most of the posts and links that I found too compromising from this blog and have decided that my research relating to this piece will from now on be carried out and documented outside of the blog.

What’s in a hum?

Here’s a little more info on the Hums (temporary title) piece I am working on:

The humming piece I am planning aims to, among other things, make those experiencing it as spectators become suddenly aware of their sonic surroundings. The plan is to make the humming of the performers start imperceptibly, then crescendo slowly until evident and sustain loudly for a while, before repeating the process in reverse and fading out to leave the ambient hum bare.

With this piece, then, I aim to bring to the attention of the public a sound characteristic of a given space and which mostly* goes either unnoticed or ignored.

I have chosen to do so by using a small crowd of (briefed) humming performers, in part because this plays on the word “hum”, but also because using the human voice in this context is very practical, as it allows me to carry out the piece without creating excessive disruption in the location I have chosen or having to worry about the piece being halted by security before it has a chance to begin. Humming to oneself in public, after all, is not forbidden…

Furthermore, I like the simplicity of using the human voice in this context, I like the fact that with sufficient planning and preparation anyone could create a piece like this, that the materials for its execution are readily available to anyone.
In addition, because the human voice is personal and characteristic of each individual, maybe this will mean that something of the performers, through their voices, will be permanently embedded in the surroundings and left behind as a memory within the ambient hum.

Also, because the fading in and out will be gradual, the boundaries between human humming and ambient hum will become blurred, the hum then becoming part of the piece and permanently extending it both in the past and future.

This piece, once fully ideated, could also be adapted to and used to explore other ambient hums in different spaces.

*I say “mostly” because I do not claim to be the only person who has noticed it or enjoys listening to it…


I am currently working on a piece which will involve a humming crowd in a public space of my choosing.

Last year I took part in a performance by Arco at Milton Keynes Gallery. One of the pieces we performed, by Sam Belifante, required us to hum along with a video depicting the composer in Taos, New Mexico (a town  plagued by a mysterious hum) as he hummed surrounded by the local soundscape and landscape.

At around the same time, I performed with a group of other improvising musicians in a public space in which a persistent hum could be heard. Afterwards, I kept wondering to myself how wonderful it could have been, had we played along to the hum rather than treated it as an annoyance or ignored it, during our performance.

This wondering turned into a bit of an obsession, and I got thinking about ways of going back to the space and interacting with its ambient hum. A small flash mob -style co-ordinated performance and vocal humming seemed a very appropriate, practical and unintrusive way of doing this. Furthermore, the simplicity and beauty of the human voice was very appealing to me.

However,  I remembered Sam Belifante’s piece, and wondered wether I could go ahead with an idea bearing similarities to his. After being unable to let this idea rest, I have come to the conclusion that I need to make it a reality, and what matters is that I carry out thorough research into similar work (of which I have since found out there is more), and make sure that the final piece is informed by it, but mine.

Tonight I took a look at Sam’s website, and found a further voice piece, again in a (superficially at least) similar vein to the one I am planning. This will be a challenge…