Voicing the Sonic: a case study of the RMIT Sonic Arts Collection and the Speaker Orchestra

Lawrence Harvey, Jon Buckingham, Lisa Rae Bartolome, Gillian Lever, and Josh Peters (RMIT)
2019 Conference

Universities are uniquely resourced to produce cultural events audiences wouldn’t otherwise experience. This paper describes one such project – the establishment and development of the RMIT Sonic Arts Collection (SAC) and a series of public engagement events on a speaker orchestra.

Most Australian universities maintain cultural collections, which offer specialised forms of engagement to support teaching, learning and research, and offer a means for piloting cross-disciplinary projects. The integration of cultural collections into pedagogical models can disseminate specific and interdisciplinary knowledge, encourage peer discourse, and support training of practical skills for students.

This paper reports on the development, components and projects undertaken with the SAC and SIAL Sound Studios since 2012. We describe specific engagement activities with undergraduates, post-graduates and industry partners through exhibitions, national and international performances. The SAC is made present in the life of the university through events on the speaker orchestra, as teaching materials, opportunities for HDRs to work on pieces and for unique listening experiences in three dedicated spatial sound spaces around the University. Together these form an ecology of teaching, research and engagement represented and discussed at the end of the paper.

Acknowledgment: The authors warmly acknowledge the support and leadership of Suzanne Davies in establishing and championing the collection during her time at RMIT University.

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About the author


Lawrence Harvey is a composer, sound designer and director of SIAL Sound Studios, based in the School of Design, RMIT University. He has led ARC Grants with local arts organisations and published widely on creative and cultural aspects of spatial sound.


Lisa Rae Bartolomei is an artist, composer & sound designer and is currently enrolled as a Masters Research Candidate at SIAL Sound Studios In RMIT University’s School of Design . Employing a hybrid of multichannel electroacoustic, soundscape & musical composition for Installation & performance, her practice and research explore the liminal spaces between the Imagination and the environment, the known and the mythical realms.


Jon Buckingham is curator and manager of the RMIT University Art Collection. He has curated a number of exhibitions, and his practice explores object-based learning initiatives, and the role played by collections in contemporary institutions and curatorial models.


Gillian Lever is a sound artist and composer working across multichannel sound performance, diffusion and sound installation. She is currently undertaking a Master of Design at RMIT’s School of Design, and her practice-led research explores the intertwined nature of the relationship between spatial sound, the space it inhabits, and the embodied listener.


Josh Peters is a composer, sound designer and recent Honours graduate of Fine Arts at RMIT University. Through audio manipulation and spatial sound performance, his practice examines the underlying mechanisms of listening.