5Hz – A Human Language For Social Bonding

Artist Emma Smith recently presented her long-term project 5Hz at Arnolfini – a multimedia exhibition promoting a new human language. The idea behind Emma Smith’s work is to develop an alternative evolution of voice and create a language that strengthens human connection and encourages social bonding.

5Hz is the final result of a collaborative research process with psychologist Laurence White, cognitive neuroscientist Nina Kazanina, and musicologist Emma Hornby. In 2014 members of the public were invited to take part in various events and experiments to test the elements of voice that make us feel connected, which eventually contributed to the shaping of the artwork and the final installation.


The 5Hz exhibition serves as a launch of a new vocal practice through interactive events and installations including a language school where visitors are invited to try the language themselves, an interactive sound library and research space, online experiments, and an events space with a rich programme of choral performances, workshops, activities, talks and discussions exploring different aspects of human voice.


The 5Hz language

The gallery space featured a series of paintings depicting the 5Hz language. The language itself is made up of three components: an alphabet, syllabary (the syllables made by combining the letters of the alphabet) and glides (the sounds created when transitioning between vowel sounds).

This new human language aims at transcending linguistic barriers and the letters, symbols, and sounds are inspired by existing languages around the world.


The research behind 5Hz was informed by a theory that our voices originally evolved for the purpose of song; therefore, the letters of the 5Hz alphabet are all ‘voiced’ sounds and the language itself is a sung language.

Emma Smith’s project testifies to the difficulty of understanding the most intangible art – music, which had invisibly shaped lives since the beginning of time, and presents an admirable attempt to grasp important aspects aiming at general betterment.

The exhibition along with all related events ran between 20 March and 6 April 2015.