Sound Explorers

Sound Explorers was an online larp run by Nina Runa Essendrop as part of the weekend of activity that replaced the original dates of Knutepunkt 2021.

It takes place entirely via audio — and was initially designed as an experience for blind people. This run happened via Zoom. And as well as not seeing anything, we didn’t talk either, once the workshop was under way.

There was about an hour and a half of workshopping, followed by twenty minutes of the actual larp. That might sound like an odd balance, but I felt it worked pretty well — I wouldn’t have wanted any less workshopping to prepare me for it, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to last any longer. (In a good way! — ie. it felt sufficient and complete.)

There were two strands to the larp: building a soundscape together, and exploring it (which was more individual).

Building a soundscape out of improvised noises was where most of the workshop time went. We learned, practised, and developed various noise-making techniques, and worked on how to build on and respond to what the other participants were doing. The exercises were each fairly brief and they escalated at a gentle pace, so I didn’t feel at any point that I was being rushed, or anxious about being able to contribute. (Although usually this sort of thing would be way outside my comfort zone, and induce intense feelings of awkwardness.)

Once that was done, we developed ‘sound explorer’ characters — beings who would be moving around the soundscape that we would build, reacting to it and expressing themselves. They weren’t defined in any detail: just as a collection of feelings and aims, all left quite vague and open. In practice they took on most of their character during the actual play of the larp.

So then, during play, each of us moved freely between two modes: contributing to the ongoing soundscape, and playing the explorer within it. At some points there were no explorers active, at others there were a few, and they could respond to each other’s findings and utterances (they were allowed to use words or brief phrases, but not enough to convey meaning or converse — just to give impressions and sensations).

So basically it worked really well, for me — I enjoyed it a lot. Nina worked hard to allay the expected anxieties of performing capably in such a foreign medium. It was an interesting pointer to some more detailed thought about how we use and respond to sound, and how we feed off and feed back to each other.

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