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Sound design for electric and hybrid cars

Electric cars are great. I would love to live in a city where people don't have to breathe exhaust gases every day. As there are more and more hybrid cars and even all-electric cars being developed, an issue comes up we didn't have to think about before: do they have to make a sound?

There used to be experts spending all their time researching ways to reduce the sound of cars with an old-fashioned gas engine. This time it's the other way around. But what is the problem exactly? Wouldn't it be nice to have a busy city center where you would only hear the sound of the people, with cars quietly moving by?

Click to read more ...


Yes/No by Carsten Nicolai

Yes/No visualizes sound waves traveling through air, in a very detailed sculpture made of steel. CarstenNicolai used recordings of Laurie Anderson saying "yes" and "no" as input while creating this sculpture. You can clearly see the difference between vowels and consonants.

I've known Carsten Nicolai quite well for his work as Alva Noto, and his collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, among others. He often explores the relationships between the visual and the audible in his projects. He also published a book, Grid Index, earlier this year.


Face Visualizer

Some projects are just plain weird. Like this Face Visualizer, one of Daito Manabe's 'body hack' experiments. By sending electric stimuli to a persons face, synchronized to the music, you get a rather funny looking visual representation of what you hear. Perfectly synchronized facial expressions.

There isn't much information on the concept of the project on Manabe's website (or it's in Japanese), and I don't know if there would be a lot to say about it. This seems to be a classic case of "look what I can do!". And it looks funny, so we all want to see it!


The Manual project

Exploring sound and listening as tools for "social cooperation and environmental investigation", that's what the Manual project, a site specific field study in Oslo aims for. Social interaction through sound.

What can sound do with an architectural space? What do everyday sounds tell us? Is the city telling a story? Despite these interesting questions there doesn't seem to be clear objective to this project. It generates beautiful images, that's for sure.

Swedish duo Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl (aka å+k), the American artist Brandon LaBelle, Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec from Holland/Slovenia, and Norwegian artists Jana Winderen and and Siri Austeen collaborated on this project.



In the ingoing series of visual sound objects here's another one: Sound/Chair. A sound was designed to exactly represent the form of a chair when creating a volume/time/frequency plot. The chair is an exact replica of the resulting graph.

Sound/Chair was created by London-based designer Matthew Plummer Fernandez in an attempt to find the link between furniture and sound. He created 719 different sounds in order to find the one suitable for this chair.


Mafoombey acoustic space

A space created solely for listening to and experiencing music and sound, that's what Mafoombey is. The space, created by Martti Kalliala and Esa Ruskeepää is carved out of a pile of cardboard.

The organic shapes invite users to relax and enjoy the sound from the integrated six speaker surround sound system. Aim of the makers was to create the ultimate listening environment, with great acoustics. And it's beautiful, too!


Bacterial Orchestra

A "self-organizing evolutionary musical organism", that's how the makers of Bacterial Orchestra define this sound installation. The cells in this organism are made of speakers and microphones, listening to the sounds that are surrounding them.

Visitors interact with Bacterial Orchestra by simply making a sound. I like the idea of having a system that takes your input and gives it back in a new form. The installation is created by Olle Cornéer and Martin Lübcke.


Reflection, a data sculpture by Benjamin Maus

Reflection, a data sculpture by Benjamin Maus, was inspired by a musical piece by Frans de Waard. Software was used to analyze the frequencies of the music. Unlike some projects we looked at before (Cylinder and this project), it's not the visualization of one sound, but of a complete piece of music.

Why do we want to see everything? Some things appear to be more real if you can see them, or touch them. We will not be able to tell what the music sounded like by looking at a sculpture like this. It does look quite fascinating though.


How music provokes memories

It's amazing to experience how a certain song can bring us back to a place, a situation, a feeling from the past. This is a highly personal experience. Most of us probably have experienced this, and some of us might even avoid listening to certain songs because of this.

As the experience is different for every person, you will not recognize the example I'm giving. I want to share it with you none the less. It's amazing how our brains can bring together music and images, even after years and years.

I was traveling to Prague by train. I can't remember if it was '97 or '98. I was going to stay there for about a week, together with a friend, in the middle of the winter. If you've never been to Prague I can recommend going during winter, the city was so beautiful!

It's quite a long trip so I brought a lot of CD's and a Discman - it was still the pre-iPod era. After being listening to mainly metal for quite a few years I got interested in electronic music. First the Prodigy, via Chemical Brothers to drum 'n bass. Along with New Forms by Roni Size, Colours by Adam F was one of my favorites back then.

And apart from the question if I still like the music today, I see the image of a snow white eastern German landscape flashing before my eyes, each time I play Music in my Mind by Adam F. For a moment I'm back on that train, on my way to a new wintry adventure.

Do you have an experience like this? I would like to hear about it!

Photo by Iwan Gabovitch


Soundspace Yogya by Cilia Erens

Soundspace Yogya is a sound installation by Cilia Erens. She creates sound art without processing and manipulating the sounds. Recordings of Yogyakarta are filtered and selected to create the content for this installation.

There's no preview of the sounds available, so I don't know what it sounds like. It was the image that caught my attention. These listening stations look wonderful. Wouldn't it be great to find them on your way, to just stick your head in one, let the sound surround you and leave the real world for a while?