Soundpainting is an international sign language for creating live compositions. A typical Soundpainting performance might look like a classical ensemble involving a group of performers and a conductor except for one thing–in a Soundpainting performance, the conductor is also composing the piece as it is being performed. The composer/conductor signs gestures to the ensemble indicating the type of music to play and the members of the ensemble respond and interact creatively within the guidelines of each gesture. In this way, the Soundpainter and the ensemble inform each other’s musical choices in a dialogue of gesture and response.
Soundpainting in education
Soundpainting fosters personal creativity, builds community, and impacts student development in the arts. While performing in a Soundpainting ensemble, students explore their own individuality and creativity by improvising within the guidelines of each gesture. When students compose their own improvised compositions by conducting an ensemble with Soundpainting, they are able to ‘play’ the group like an instrument and are encouraged to explore the possibilities of dynamics, tempo, texture, form, and color in musical composition. By experiencing Soundpainting as both a member of the ensemble and as a composer/conductor, students learn to relate to each other in different social roles. Soundpainting broadens students’ conception of musicianship by relating key aspects of sound to movement and by allowing them to experiment with music in ways that they may not have been previously aware of.
An international language
Soundpainting is used in performance and educational settings around the world. Originally created in the 1970’s by Walter Thompson as a way to bring more structure to free-form musical improvisation, the Soundpainting language has grown into an all-inclusive tool for composing live musical and multi-disciplinary performances. It now contains over 800 signs and continues to develop through its vibrant community of musicians, actors, dancers, visual artists, and educators.