How to Paint with Sound

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • October 30, 2019

Over the past several weeks, Cal State East Bay has celebrated accessibility month. Students attended workshops and discussions centered around the inclusivity of those with both visible and hidden disabilities. 

One such workshop was a Soundpainting Intensive, organized by the theatre and dance department. Developed in the 1990s by Jazz musician Walter Thompson, soundpainting is a live composing sign language for artists rooted in improvisation. It’s a way for musicians, actors, dancers and visual artists to train in improvisational skills as well as learn to be composers in the moment.

The theatre and dance department received a grant to do a weeklong exchange with artist and certified soundpainter Andrea Ariel. During the exchange, Ariel introduced students and faculty to this expressive art form as well as taught them its benefits. 

Eric Kupers, a professor in the theatre and dance department, expressed how accessibility has always been a major focus of his. He emphasized that all of his classes and workshops are designed to be inclusive of people with and without disabilities, including the Soundpainting Intensive. Kupers said soundpainting actually lends itself well to those with disabilities because it is “improvised and each person gets to decide how to respond in the moment, in their own body, with their own abilities.”

 “It is inherently accessible to anybody who wants to participate because there’s no two people who will do the same thing ... look alike or sound alike,” Kupers said. “No two soundpaintings are ever alike because it is all improvised.” 

Overall turnout for the workshops was great, Kupers said, and pulled in crowds of 30-plus participants. People of all ages and abilities were able to experience a new form of expression and interact with their environment through movement. The theatre and dance department hopes to continue exploring soundpainting and will look for ways to implement it in curriculum.

— Skylar Houze