Heather Panic - Digital Heartbeat Suite

Link to recording

I was touched by the way several of the expectant mothers in the obstetrics clinic were discussing their plans for the baby in terms of caring for a child the way their mothers cared for them, and that helped me consider the prenatal visits as the start of a new individual's journey through life.

I started with a field recording of a heartbeat, as heard by expectant mothers during their prenatal checks. The heartbeat is played throughout the piece, starting at around 135 beats per minute (newborn rate) and decreasing to 70 by the end. The timeline therefore represents the span of a human life. At the start, there is a sample of a mother talking to the person as a new baby, and at the end is another sample with the person's last breaths.

Along the way, I had to learn how to use the music creation software (Ableton Live 10) and also some basics of music theory. I experimented with playing the melody in various keys but settled on what is probably the most common one (C major) since it produced a warm, familiar feel that I felt went well with the “story.”

Equipment and sources:

  • Tascam field recorder, used to record the heartbeat sound while I was on my ob-gyn rotation
  • "sssh mommy is here" recording from FreeSound website, uploaded by user “alucardsbride” (public domain)
  • "breathing" recording from FreeSound website, uploaded by user “viznoman” (creative commons attribution license)