Online Accessibility Training

Learning Tool:
Sound and Drama

Sound can enrich the sensory experience of art and aid in conveying concepts to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. By combining movement and sound, creative drama maximizes an audience member's kinesthetic impressions, sensory experience, and emotional response.


Sound Images
ABS's Art History Through Touch and Sound encyclopedia contains interpretive sound compositions called Sound Images. They combine sounds, music, and narration to create aural equivalents of a particular artwork or an artistic style. They help to evoke the experience of a work of art for people without sight. They can be listened to alone or in coordination with the narration and tactile diagrams of ABS's encyclopedia.

Media player icon showing art patron Dennis

Hear art patron Dennis on the value of sound (1:28)

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Media player icon showing a painting by Dali

Listen to “Surrealism,” the Sound Image Dennis refers to (2:12)

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Media player icon showing Cover of The Art of Ancient Egypt volume in Art History Through Touch and Sound

Hear music in Art History Through Touch and Sound volume "The Art of Ancient Egypt." (:55 )

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Music of the Period
Period music in galleries and classrooms or multisensory publications can evoke specific ages and regions. For example, Renaissance or Baroque music, African drums, or medieval church bells can provide a sensory understanding of a work of art and its context.

Using Musical Instruments to Convey Motion, Rhythm, and Action
Encourage children to experiment with simple and handmade musical instruments to connect sound with different rhythmic motions.

Physical Movement or Re-enactment

Teacher and students imitating the pose of a sculpture by Giacometti
Docent assumes pose of Giacometti sculpture Museum of Modern Art, NY

In order to understand a composition, ask students to act out or assume a pose of the figures in the painting or sculpture.

You can also use movement if there is enough staff to guide the students through the movements safely. For example, ask the students to imagine what might happen next, while educators describe any clues given visually in the composition by the artist.

Practical Considerations
  • Sound and drama enhance touch tours. Educators can also recommend sound compositions and creative drama to tour groups as part of a pre- or post-museum activity.
  • Teachers can use sound compositions, period music, musical instruments, and creative drama to prepare students for a museum visit, or to augment a lesson on history, social sciences, literature, or the arts. This technique can be used in all classrooms.

Remember: Music and drama will not be appropriate or possible for every work of art. Also, remember that people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy, study, and professionally perform arts such as drama and music.

How to Get It or Make It. Cheap and Easy

Many public libraries have music collections through which you can explore the music of a particular historical period or cultural group.

Introduce students to a variety of simple instruments, such as bells, rhythm boxes, whistles, simple pipes or stringed instruments. Students can also make many of their own instruments; for example, a sealed cup with rice, beans or bells inside.

Examples of Sound Images

You can find Sound Image compositions in volumes of ABS's Art History Through Touch and Sound encyclopedia. Some compositions are about specific works of art; others convey the aesthetic properties of a style of art.

They can be used by individuals or played in classrooms or galleries.

  • In The Building Blocks of Art - "Building Blocks"
  • In European Modernism: 1900-1940 - Duchamp, "Nude Descending a Staircase," "Surrealism," "Abstraction," and "Cubism"
  • In Baroque Art in the 17th Century - Rubens, "The Triumph of the Eucharist,"
    Rubens, "The Gathering of the Manna"
    DeHeem, "Still Life with Parrots"
You can also hear Sound Image compositions at ABS's Art History Through Touch and Sound Online.

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Online Training
How do We Access Meaning in Art?
  What Are Accessibility Tools?
  Theory and Research
  Learning Tools
  Touch Tools
    Tactile Diagrams
    Verbal Description
    Sound and Drama
    Art Making
    Educational Extensions
  General Tools
    Universal Design
    Braille and Large Print
    Tactile Graphics
    Audio Described Media
    Accessible Web Materials
  Next Steps
  Beyond Accessibility


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