Aquasonic, when music is played underwater

The Danish band Aquasonic is the only one in the world playing underwater, using specific instruments only.

Even before coming into the world, the outer sounds we hear are filtered by liquids. But music, as well as water, has an effect on people as an underwater environment. Maybe this is the reason why the combination between water and music has always been stimulating the artistic imagination and production, from John Cage to Michel Relolfi’s underwater compositions. Lately, the Danish interdisciplinary project Aquasonic developed exclusively underwater visual performances, installations and live concerts.


Led by founding members Laila Skovmand and Robert Karlsson, five musicians and singers equipped with custom-made underwater instruments submerged completely in individual tanks. Within their tanks, that look like claustrophobic aquariums (actually, the biggest one contains 1600 litres of water), the artists produce charming and disquieting music and sounds at once. With their bodies in slow motion, they play and sing underwater like a real band: their music, which includes mermaid songs, melodies and white noise, propagates through hydrophones and is amplified and spread to the audience through loudspeakers. The musicians wear special earphones in order to listen to each other and they alternatively emerge to breathe. They don’t coordinate easily because of the underwater refraction within the tanks, which limits visibility. However, so much technical obstacles haven’t discouraged the activity of Aquasonic, which is at present the only ensemble in the world to play underwater.

Skovmand and Karlsson have been working for years with researchers at the University of Torornto and Aarhus, American builders and mechanic engineers, professors of marine acoustics, scientists and experts in cymatics (the study of the effects of sound waves on the matter) but even with the producers of the Cirque du Soleil, with whom they discussed about technology, arts and philosophy to understand which were the most suitable instruments to be used underwater. These include an electromagnetic harp, percussion instruments such as 24 Tibetan bells, a carbon fibre violin, a rhythmic instrument similar to a water wheel and a sort of organ called hydraulophone created by the genius Steve Mann, a human cyborg, pioneer of augmediated reality that in 1985 invented a water-based instrument to produce sound.


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