About / Aswarm %
page-template,page-template-full_width,page-template-full_width-php,page,page-id-3462,bridge-core-2.3.4,,qode-title-hidden,paspartu_enabled,paspartu_on_bottom_fixed,qode_grid_1300,qode_popup_menu_push_text_right,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-22.0,qode-theme-bridge,hide_inital_sticky,disabled_footer_top,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.2.0,vc_responsive,elementor-default,elementor-kit-2354

Thank you for participating!

The Diasonix Experiment was inspired by the DIAPIX research method lead by prof Valerie Hazan @ UCL’s Speech Hearing and Phonetic Sciences Research Dept (SHaPS) and Thor McB’s research into how Lockdown has affected how we listen.  This pilot project stems from ongoing series of Science / Art collaborations between Val & Thor, exploring how their different approaches to working with speech & soundscape can combine and create something neither of them would conceive alone.


5 x Artists + 1 x Scientist, investigate sounds in Lockdown:

Asking how has Lockdown affected how we listen and what it is we are hearing?
Creating Diasonix soundscapes inspired by what they themselves have been hearing differently during Lockdown for people to play.

2 x People Isolated from each other hook-up and play:

The Diasonix Experiment and try to Hear the Difference.
Partaking in a Deep-listening exercise and a research experiment to learn about how we listen, describe and articulate sound.

The Aim of the Game:

To explore how we can harness, nurture and train the heightened sense of hearing & improved listening skills Lockdown appears to be giving us.

Duncan Whitley

Duncan Whitley

I have produced two soundscapes for the Diasonix Experiment, both recorded in my home city of Coventry during the extraordinary period of emergency lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic which first hit the UK during spring 2020.

Both soundscapes focus on the ritualistic “Clap for our Carers” (or, “Clap for our Key Workers”) events which took place from 23rd March to 28th May 2020. The first of these feels civic in nature, recorded in the open space outside the entrance to University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire. It was attended by a group of articulated lorry drivers from a local firm, who came to demonstrate their support for the NHS.

The second Diasonix soundscape has a more intimate feel, and was recorded in a residential street in the city. I like how the recordings mirror one another in spite of their different qualities, taking on a certain narrative “shape”, with clearly defined beginning, middle and end. Clap for our Key Workers for me became the focus of my “lockdown listening” each Thursday evening.

Chloe Osborne & Harry Holgate

Chloe Osborne & Harry Holgate

We entered Lockdown with a 2 month old, a 3 year old and a friend with her 2 year old. 3 under 3’s and 3 adults under one roof for 3 months! It took a while to accustom ourselves to new levels of noise. On the rare moments with two free hands and all the children in other spaces, the listening experience was intense. Always multi-layered, curving abruptly from giggle to scream, joy to outrage.

Here, we tried to capture the builds and reprieves, the tiny fragments of quiet and the swirly loops of energy in the house.

Listening deeply became a meditative exercise… cutting through the chaotic weave of human voices and energies to bring through the sounds of the house breathing, the outside puncturing the periphery with ever-bolder foxes, squirrels & birds.

Dan Fox

Dan Fox

Dan Fox. Sound artist, musician and installation creator.

The main bed of the piece was from two 10 min recordings made in woods about 60m up from the east shore of Coniston Water. It was a hot day with beautiful bright blue sky during the height of lockdown. I was on a bike ride with my daughter and we stopped for a rest and to enjoy the peacefulness.
Sound carries really well across the lake and on the far side is a main road but during the whole recording period only a couple of cars drove along the far side and across a cattle grid. There is a B road close to the mic and again only one or two cars pass by. There are a few bikes. The horses were added.
There is no river in that location. the river sound in the mix is actually the river Duddon recorded near Ulpha. I used a mid-side stereo mic and mixed in a hydrophone so the sound is simultaneously from above and below the waters’ surface.
The crows and some other bird calls are from dawn chorus recordings i made every morning for a week at the end of April… I recorded from before the chorus starts, around 03.50 am for about 4 hours each day. In total i recorded around 28 hours of sound. There is a road at the front of our house which is normally a commuters rat-run but in all 28 hours, there are only a handful of vehicles that pass by. I really started to notice the sounds of passing cyclists instead of cars. The passing bike recordings were made by our house.


Thor McIntyre-Burnie

Thor McIntyre-Burnie

Artist and director of Aswarm. Sound is a primary tool in his interactive installations and site-specific interventions.

My Diasonix piece was inspired by some regular sounds that took on a new resonance for me, during Lockdown and thus became kind of ear worms and the intense moments that burnt themselves into the retina of my memory. These resonated with some intense dreams that often ended with an acute rush and a constricted inability to cry out.

The P4 bus has a quite particular sound as it journeys up the hill near my home in south London. As the traffic sounds died down the bus continued on like some lonely ship forging through the night. The thought of these solitary drivers soldiering on through the empty streets, despite some of their colleagues dying of Covid, gave this sound a new haunting kinda lament..

George Floyd’s death travelling straight into our home via the video feed and subsequent outrage, pierced through the bubble like a needle. Attending Black Lives Matter protests was such a surreal and intense experience, leaving the confines of the lockdown home to join masses of highly emotionally charged people ran so counter to the social distancing we were immersed in. And yet it also reverberated with the sense that Covid was giving us the time & space to listen, to reflect and to say things have to change. The next normal has to be different.

I also wanted to contrast the extreme with the mundane, public with domestic and touch on the sense of ‘lockdown-time’ & space. For me the sound of the early morning bin lorry groaning down the road again… became like a signifier of time passing in that surreal period, where time took on its own fluctuating tempo.. “it’s morning… it’s Friday again, already!?” “did you put the bins out?”

Diapix Research

Diapix Research

About Diapix

Diapix’ (van Engen et al., 2011, Baker and Hazan, 2011) is a problem-solving ‘spot the difference’ picture task used for eliciting spontaneous speech interactions between two participants. Participants have to try and work out what 12 differences there are between their pictures without seeing their partner’s picture. The pictures are carefully designed to elicit certain vocabulary items. This task has been used with children aged 8 years and above as well as with adults aged up to 85 years. To get a ‘clean’ recording for each participant, the diapix task can be done with each participant seated in a separate sound-treated booth and communicating via headphones.

Now an internationally adopted methodology Valieries research using Diapix, in collaboration with Dr Outi Tuomainen (pictured above) is based at UCL’s Speech Hearing and Phonetic Sciences (SHaPS Research Dep).

More Info On Diapix Research:

Demo: https://acousticstoday.org/diapix_task/

Prof Valerie Hazan

Valerie Hazan

Valerie Hazan is a professor of Speech Sciences at UCL. Her research focuses on ‘speaker-listener interaction’ and analyses of speech that is produced in spontaneous communicative exchanges between speakers (using the diapix technique which inspired diasonix).

My long research career at UCL has been concerned with trying to get a better understanding of how we perceive and produce the sounds of speech, especially in challenging situations (e.g., when speaking a new language, listening with a hearing loss or in less than ideal listening conditions). In the last few years, with my collaborator Outi Tuomainen, I have used a picture-based ‘spot the difference’ problem-solving task, Diapix, to elicit and then analyse natural, yet controlled, conversations between pairs of participants in different listening environments. We have used this approach in studies with participants aged 8 to 85, as well as with second-language speakers, and children and adults with hearing loss.  We have investigated the strategies that speakers adopt to maintain effective communication in challenging situations, and also how these strategies vary with age, language background and hearing status.

When Thor approached me with the idea of developing an auditory version of Diapix, I was intrigued and excited! Would the task be more challenging when you have to find differences in the auditory rather than visual domain? How easy do we find it to describe small differences in sound? While the sound artists were developing their beautiful soundscapes, I was noticing how attuned I was becoming to the sounds around me during lockdown while working in my office at home. A goldfinch regularly perched itself on a TV aerial on a roof nearby and sang loudly while I worked. I often stopped what I was doing to go and look at it and marvel at the beauty of the singing.

Being involved in this art-science collaboration will broaden my research in many ways. The Diasonix  task itself, with its soundscapes recorded during the lockdown, is likely to elicit much more natural and emotive interactions than have been obtained from the Diapix picture task carried out in a laboratory setting. It will also hopefully be a way to engage a much broader range of participants.

We are leaving updates on the project in this little area!

In 2020 we began a new R&D collaborative project called a Heightened Sense of Tree (AHSOT). A collaboration led by Thor McB + Lindsey Butcher (dir of Gravity & Levity -One of UK’s most experienced aerial dancers & Choreographers). Our basic concept aims to sensorially ‘describe’ the forest in movement,......

Delighted to share a article about Aswarm’s Artistic Director Thor McIntyre-Burnie in Resolution Magazine – one of the leading pro-audio magazines. – Capturing a day in the life, during A Heightened Sense of Tree #AHSOT R&D collaboration with vertical dancer/choreographer Lindsey Butcher (Gravity & Levity) in the tree’s of Wild......

call to action image


We would love to hear your feedback and understand that having your game recorded is not everyones cup of tea, so please do send us your thoughts in an email. And if this relates to your own research please get in touch. On social media please use #diasonix. This is pilot idea that we intend to build on…


Interesting Links, Related Articles, Progress Reports :

We shall be updating this section soon.


Thank you to our Sponsors : Luma.one –  who provide the Interactive Video System.

Thank you for Video Content Production: Sam Randhawa (shaantihousestudios.com)