Deep Sounds – Tests at Wheatley

july 2012

Digging down a meter

I want to make an installation with the experience of a live sound wave or pressure wave from deep in the earth. I’m keen to set this exotic sound in a garden of an ordinary house in a city to emphasise the ongoing nature of the planet even while we are just living our daily lives – watching the Olympics, cooking the supper etc……!

My question is – how low can I go?

I asked Bristol University Geology Department whether it would be better to try listening under Bristol or under Oxford. The answer was that if I didn’t want to make accurate scientific calculations I could go to either place, but Bristol was built on more rock than Oxford.

“The quality of the data from a seismic sensor is strongly affected by local conditions at a site. For best seismic fidelity, seek a site with shallow soil cover over bedrock and away from roads or human activity. Site conditions in Bristol are slightly better than Oxford due to the deeper soil and sediment layers in Oxfordshire, but there is more human-generated noise. (Wiltshire’s chalk deposits are quite poor seismic sites.) There is always a compromise involved in selecting a site.”

Image of under ground geology of Oxford
(See website for key to rock formations shown)

I want to find out what equipment I can use for this installation to pick up low frequencies from a geophone or geophones and play it through either a PA system into a speaker cone, or via a transducer into the walls of the house or object like a wardrobe to feel the vibrations.

Image of under ground geology of Bristol

In terms of how to present the installation I want to convey to the visitor:

• The experience of the intermittent live sound wave vibrations either audible or inaudible – (showing they are very long waves)
• The distance through the ground the sound has travelled – (large sized waves travel a great distance through the earth)

I wonder if a listener’s experience of a VIBRATION from a very large sound/pressure wave would need more explanation than a very low just audible SOUND from a pressure/sound wave?

Here is a description of some tests I made to help the process of making the installation.
While some Oxford Brookes University sound equipment was being calibrated at the Wheatley campus, I was able to set up outside with different combinations of geophones to see how they behaved with the University’s PA system. (1000W amp and several PS2 12” speaker cones having a lower range down to 25Hz)

Red geophone being placed in the ground connected to the equipment inside the hall

I set out to find out 3 things:

1. QUESTION should I use the Wheatley sound equipment with the geophone/s I have?

2. QUESTION should I use a phased array of geophones to make a stronger signal?

3. QUESTION should I place the geophones at an angle down into the ground for deeper frequency sounds?

The equipment sounded good amplifying the geophone. It also felt interesting to feel the vibrations. The equipment however was built to deal with audible sounds over 25Hz and 29Hz, so were we experiencing any frequencies lower than 25Hz?

Above -one geophone picking up underground sounds from the road

I learnt about the time delay to make a stronger signal with a phased array. The phased array with the geophones lined up towards the sound source (the road approximately 60m away) did sound stronger. We tried two phased arrays on the surface of the ground (not dug down). The line with greater distance between the geophones had a more contrasting and stronger sound than the geophones with less distance between them.

Above – phased array of geophones on the surface of the ground a) 1 m and b) 12 m apart

[audio:|titles=phased array 12 m gap]

phased array 12 m gap
(listen with head phones)

Information about Time Delay:
To match up the sounding time of all three geophones, so they all would be heard at the same time (maximising the strength of the signal) the sound from the two geophones at shorter distances from the desk had to be delayed. A time delay is when the desk is programmed to delay the sounding of a signal.

Calculating the time the sound took to travel between the geophones informed us of what lengths of time the delays should be ( to round figures). We calculated that:
• If the distance between one geophone and the next were 3.70 meters, the sound took .5 of a millisecond to travel through the ground between them.
• If the distance was 1meter sound took .2 of a millisecond to travel between them.
• If the distance was 1.90 meters, the sound took .3 of a millisecond.

Listening to the recordings of the phased arrays with and without the angle or downward tilting slope, a slight difference could be heard by ear. We created two different angles to the ground surface. One was steeper than the other. I could not tell by ear if the sounds were lower with the more steeply sloped downward angle, although they sounded different.
Here is best phased array

Above a phased array of geophones on an angle to the grounds’ surface

Line of geophones on the flat ground surface, angled downwards

Above a phased array of geophones in a steepler angle to the grounds surface

[audio:|titles=phased array angled down]
Listening to the sound of phased array with the geophones at a steeper angle
(use headphones for listening)

Geophones dug into small slope

Our tests were more exploratory than scientifically planned out, and rather than getting definitive answers I was able to experience the equipment working and understand how to ask different questions for setting up the installation:

1. I found it was possible to cut off the higher frequencies that were coming from the ground (at the desk) above 35 Hz, and listen to the audible contrasting signals of the lower register. (The desk could not cut off lower frequencies than 35Hz if we wanted to isolate lower frequencies).

2. I found that to verify that the frequencies from the two downward facing phased arrays were different from the arrays on the grounds’ surface, it would require an instrument like an oscilloscope or spectrograph – which I didn’t have at that time. Is it possible to get a spectrograph that registers frequencies of 2Hz-7Hz- 10Hz?

3. I found that when we sent a sine wave (an isolated wave) through the sound system, you could feel the speaker vibrate. There fore the system could convey very low frequencies at a low db level – contrary to what it said on the equipment spec.(which specified 25Hz as its lowest rang). So (for my installation experiencing vibration and the lowest audible sound) would I need a speaker larger than 21” to convey lower vibrating frequencies?

4. I found that it wouldn’t be easy to isolate, experience and identify the LOWEST live sound wave/vibration in a live ground sound signal with a mixture of frequencies. Is there perhaps a desk or software that would cut off all frequencies over10Hz or lower? High and Low pass filters exist for seismic instruments, but do they exist for audio instruments that low?

Thanks to the Brookes groundsmen for coming to my aid, looking like Time Team, and helping dig and provide me with some history of the ground itself. Digging down under the well kept grass ‘dug up’ memories of the cables being laid for the then new University buildings and one groundsman remembered playing here as a boy, where there once stood a WW2 hospital – the wounded came here to be ‘out of sight’.

Wheatley Campus ‘ Time Team’

Thanks also very much to David Carugo, John Glasgow and Danny Bhatt for their time, expertise – technical and mathematical – and lots of helpful ideas.


I Can’t See Venus!

June 2012

I looked at the sunrise on the 5th at 5am to see the Transit of Venus passing in front of the early morning sun. It was cloudy at first –so I’m not sure f I missed it


…..or maybe my timing was wrong, anyway I hung out of the up stairs window with binoculars to shine the image of the sun on to paper. (This was to avoid direct eye contact with the sun)

Sun image on paper through binoculars

The sun enlarged from the camera picture on my phone

What do you think? Did I get the picture? Doesn’t look like it, but Chris Lockwood
definitely did catch it on his mobile phone.

Information re the Transit of Venus here:

But Can You Hear Venus – Live?
For some time now I have found it interesting that it’s possible to hear rather than see objects and emissions of radiation, gas and dust you can’t see because they are a very long distance away from us in space. These waves from the electro magnetic spectrum, where light is the wave we are most familiar with, bring information to us through instruments, about the things we are unable to see. Listen to recorded sounds on this podcast from Jodrell Bank –

I have been looking into ways of accessing live, streamed radio waves from outside the earths’ atmosphere, in fact as far away as possible, and have sought advise from experts. Please excuse any inaccuracies in terms of scientific information in this brief post!

• Advice from the BAA RAG was that it is possible to put up a loop aerial on a house in a city and solar radio bursts can be received with a commercial short wave receiver and a suitable antenna but, as with Jupiter, they would be infrequent and would not appear to order, which would make demonstrating them difficult. There are some examples here:
The advice was that I would be limited to what is available from the internet from professional observatories, e.g.

• Advice from Jodrell Bank is that they do use live data in their research projects, but the sonification of that data is not the system currently and would be an extra project they couldn’t take on at the moment. They suggested I could more easily set up a TV with VHF receiver to get the live ‘crackle’ or white noise in between channels, 1% of which, unbelievably, is the microwave background emission from the Big Bang. and from Manchester University working with the ALMA array of telescopes in Chile - These are finishing and starting projects respectively that don’t have streamed data for the public.
From the ALMA project -a band receiver

• Radio Jove, produced by NASA, shows how you can pick up sounds yourself and what you need.

• There is a big research project at Leeds University researching into Cosmic Rays – and a lively contingent were helping from The Langton Star Centre at Simon Langton School that I met at the RSS Exhibition as well. . It was thought live streaming of Cosmic Ray data might be possible.

At the Royal Society Summer Exhibition I was able to see a Cloud Chamber or Scintillator in action for myself, which showed up evidence of the radiation raining down on us: Muons whose live trails were clear to see constantly appearing and dying.

Cloud Chamber or Scintilator

Here also is a video and an explanation of the cloud chamber. Scroll down page and click on video entitled ‘large diffusion cloud chamber’.

Victor Hess discovered Cosmic Rays in 1912, by measuring the level of ionising radiation in the atmosphere and found that it increased with altitude. He concluded that the radiation was non-terrestrial in origin.

Victor Hess 1912 – in hot air balloon

Here are some interesting artists I have come across recently who are concerned with sound/signals/ data streams – out side earths’ atmosphere and well worth looking up:

• Honor Harger is giving a talk here at LIFT on ‘The Sounds of Space’.

• Brian Duffy made work called the Otophonic Lunaphone 2004, where he created telescopes that sonified the light from stars. Listen here – . More recently he has worked at Jodrell Bank on a work Silsils:Infinite Qawwali –

• Robin McGinnley describes here – The Earth’s Original 4.5 Billion Year Old Electronic Music Composition (A Work in Progress). I heard him talk at the Supersonix 2012 conference about his sound piece – Cosmic Radio Phone.

• Steven P. McGreevy. Here is a site with sounds from the Magnetosphere – A 19-minute duration MP3 audio presentation of VLF recordings to Festival Sonika in Madrid, Spain – 08 Dec. 2011 (26.2 MB – 192 kbps PODCAST MP3)

• McGreevy also took a near perfect picture of Venus crossing the sun on 6th June – the picture I didn’t get. Scroll down the page to find it. The original is here –

Photo Steve P. McGreevy. Venus transit –Keeler California 6th June 2012


This is Nowhereisland

July/August 2012

Nowhereisland was floated here all the way from Nyskjaeret in Svalbard in the Arctic!!!!!

Nowhereisland in Weymouth Bay, UK

Conceived and made by artist Alex Hartley, the project questions in a playful way our notions of: citizenship, territory, ownership, nationhood – the nature of ‘floating rocks’. If you meet up with the tour of the south coast, you too can become a citizen of Nowhereisland.

Image: (above) Nyskjaeret in Svalbard, original location of Nowhereisland.. Courtesy Alex Hartley, photo: Max McClure.

Several young people had the opportunity to make the incredible journey from Nyskjaeret having never been to the Arctic before. What a project of opportunities! I just love the idea that for a short period of time, there is a completely new island sited along the UK coastline. I came across it in Weymouth where it was staked out for the Olympics. It will visit Bristol docks as well as Jennycliff Bay in Plymouth Sound from the 4th – 12th August.

Certificate of citizenship

I spent time on Plymouth Hoe (2009), receiving transmissions of sound from all around the great land and seascape. People came to the Terrace Café to listen in to the project Sounding Plymouth Sound. You can see for miles around and imagine the bay like a big basin.

Plymouth Sound


Because 60 thousand years ago Plymouth Sound used to be a dry valley with a river running through it – watching and listening to it all from up on the Hoe made me think of the slow geological turning of time. So now Nowhereisland is going to come –floating along– boulders and rocks – an instant island –

– turning time on its head

Equipment on the foreshore for Sounding Plymouth Sound

Here are our receivers picking up sounds from round the bay including from 60m up from a mobile phone attached to weather balloons and 10m under the water from our hydrophone transmitting from Sea Trek (the boat) out by Asia Pass.


Under water traffic noise – pity the fish!

Have a listen to Plymouth Radio and hear what’s going on with Nowhereisland. You may hear more sounds from Sounding Plymouth Sound on the radio as well – (the project described above).

9th – 12th Aug 2012

Nowhereisland Radio, run by Take A Part, will broadcast during Nowhereisland’s visit to Plymouth


Sound Sessions at Fir Tree School

June 2012

A sonic breakfast

This summer term all three classes in year 4 at Fir Tree School Wallingford, had a visit from three of us from SARU – the Sonic Arts Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University . We devised three sessions where the pupils could interact and experience sound. One session involved the creating of domestic sounds, particularly kitchen sounds, listening to them with ears and mics.

More noisy breakfast

Felicity Ford encouraged the pupils to think of their own noisy foods, so bowls of cereal were no problem. She invited them to listen in to the squeaky cabbage as they cut it, and the bubbling pot of potatoes cooking on the hob in the school kitchen that they had just peeled. They drew great pictures of the breakfasts they had eaten in the morning, describing the sounds they heard.

They recorded the sounds of Fizz Wizz sweets popping inside their mouths

[audio:|titles=fizz wizz popping]

Like wise crisps and even a cabbage and crisp sandwich!

[audio:|titles=crisps crunching] [audio:|titles=cabbage abd crisp sandwich]

The second session on another day, was a sonic treasure hunt, where we went for a stroll and hunted down prescribed sounds. Paul Whitty knew the terrain so we set off to find man made sounds, sounds made by wildlife, sounds made by machines etc

Treasure hunt – map of the route

[audio:|titles=treasure hunt noises1]

Another treasure hunt map of the route

[audio:|titles=treasure hunt noises2]

The third session explored the way different sound waves travel. I took the equipment I have been using for various sound works and we tried them out.

• Setting off party poppers at different distances down the school field, we listened to the way sound behaved travelling through air.

Party poppers

• The pupils also experimented with various implements like glasses, stethoscopes, tubes and funnels to listen to sound through a wall. On the other side of the wall some recoded sound was being played.

• A hydrophone was set up in the sink and pupils tried listening to the sounds in the water through headphones, by turning on the taps and swishing the water around and anything else they thought to try.

• An mp3 player with recorded sounds could be played into objects like the furniture walls, doors etc to amplify the sound, and the pupils experimented to see which were the best amplifying material of sounds (the radiators were good!)

• The geophone was set up so it played live sound into the subwoofer in my car. This meant pupils could experiment by tapping or stamping on the ground and hearing the sound picked up by the geophone (mic) in the ground.

Sound implements – high and low tech

The picture above shows a red geophone, a black hydrophone, a purple stethoscope and funnels and glasses for listening through walls.

I was pleased to enable the classes to have a hands-on experience and facilitate their creative input to the type of sound ‘uncovering’ I have been thinking about and developing as practical research for my PhD.

The staff working with the classes commented how absorbed the groups were in searching out new experiences. The pupils used both the high and low-tech tools with ease. I thought it would take a bit of time to listen in and focus on the sounds and ideas we put forward, but the sensitivities to sounds were acute and the drawings and questions were imaginative and searching.


Tea Tray Investigations

April 2012

Here is documentation of an idea involving teacups, saucers and a teapot on a table in the middle of a park – Ashton Court Park – Bristol.

I used a couple of transducers, a geophone (or ground mic) connected to an amplifier to make some teacups rattle with live vibration -sound waves – from the ground. The vibrations from the transducers resting in the saucers and jiggling against the china, was pronounced enough to be heard clearly.

Transducer on teapot

[audio:|titles=skylarks wind ground teapot]

Rather than a finished piece, I wanted to try out props that I hoped would react to sound waves travelling in the ground – contrasting the domestic and the scientific. The familiar picturesque tea table scene was at odds with the more scientific and unfamiliar looking gear. It was strange to hear the sound of teacups, like they rattle on a wobbling trolley, on a static table in the middle of a park.

Mics picking up wind, skylarks and rattling teacups

This disconnectedness, disjointedness of the scene alerted onlookers to see what was going on –several passers by did enquire.

Geophone picking up subterranean sound

Will- my collaborator and co documenter set up a short film clip to show how the geophone was picking up signals under foot. He wanted to show it’s direct effect on the teacups in a more obvious way. You can see the time delay of the jump and the rattling of the cups.

Rattling Tea Tray

Noticing that there are sound and pressure waves going through the ground under your feet has come into previous works I’ve done. Being aware of the ground under our feet allows us to think of the park landscape differently, as the view offers not only the scene above ground but also the potential of thinking about the land that has conveyed sound from kilometres around and beneath us.

Tea table battery, amp and preamp


Bury My Love Like Treasure

March /April 2012

How can you resonate the sound of the ground through a double bass?
Bury My Love Like Treasure is a piece for string quartet, film and recorded sounds of the earth resonating through a double bass.

Transducer on the bridge of the bass

The sound picked up by a geophone is amplified and played into the bass via a transducer on the bridge. The structure of the bass resonates the sound.

In collaboration with the composer Paul Whitty and the ensemble Exeter Contemporary Sounds, my particular task for this project was to record the sound from the ground. This work was to be one of the works in a tour called Back There On Earth. The group were interested to work with the red soil of Devon in the music and images of the piece they commissioned.

I was interested to see if and how the sound I had been able to amplify from the ground and hear through a subwoofer, would resonate though the wood frame of a double bass with a transducer placed on it. So I tried first with my cello on the Bristol Downs.

Testing with the cello transducer and geophone

Tests with the equipment visible

These tests worked out and the sound was both audible and interesting. Both tests were done near roads where the impact of the traffic on tarmac I knew would have an effect on the geophone where I was using ( SM24 see, and the battery powered car system with pre amp. (a MP-1 Sound Devices mic pre amp, 3000W amp and 12” sub at TL1023 ).

At the top of the Hill at Thorveton

We took the equipment to the very top of a hill at Thorveton in mid Devon where we had a spectacular view of the landscape and two fields away from a tiny road, a couple of miles from an A road and several miles from the M5. I was concerned that the geophone I had wouldn’t pick up sound brought about by the impact made by vehicles on the local roads; the roads being too far away.

With two transducers on the bass, we listened. There were lots of sounds! The bass was SPECTACULARLY sensitive and seemed very much like an instrument of the nature around it. We had to adjust the set up by eliminating feedback that involved moving the geophone further from the bass. We also had to turn the bass to shield the strings from excess wind and put up a brolly to shield the instrument from the sun which was causing the bass to making sharp small bangs as it slightly and sensitively expanded in the heat.

Looking up to the top of the hill you can just see two people and a double bass.

The sound was quite visceral, varied, rumbling and deep. With out a spectrograph it wasn’t easy to say what frequency it was, but it was there, received and transmitted up through the solid, red clay hill in the middle of nowhere!

Burying the violin

We recorded the sound of the soil being dug and the violin being buried in the hole. Listening carefully to these quiet sounds in that immense open space, I began to notice other quiet sounds from different distances. With the sun out, I enjoyed the colours and textures of the red earth, green grass, glinting sliver equipment and deep varnish of the instruments’ woods.

The big space all around us and over our heads made me feel like we were sticking small and probing needles into a cushion. We were uncovering sounds from deep under the red clay terrain with the fragile ringing resonating of the bass – and ceremoniously covering up the violin.

In the rehearsal studio the recorded ground sounds from the Thorveton hilltop were played into and were again resonated by the bass.

Transducer strapped on to the bass

Here is the sound of the ground as recorded resonating through the bass on the hill, now being played resonating again through the bass in the studio. This recording sounds rather less distinct than it did live due to the acoustics of the room – and my recording.

[audio:|titles=ground through bass]

Here are recordings of the process of the rehearsal, and not the finished composition, where the string players are improvising and getting to know the feel of the sounds of the ground to play with. First you can hear the strings improvising with the sound of the ground

[audio:|titles=strings impro with ground]

Here the string players are improvising, playing and vocalising with the sound of the ground.

[audio:|titles=vocals strings ground]

Here’s singer Jackie Oates singing a traditional song with the string players improvising and the sound of the ground.

[audio:|titles=singer strings and ground]

String players rehearsing

The performance featured images of the recording of the sounds on the hill in Thorveton. You can see the earth where the sounds came from close up……

Blog spot for tour

Bridport Art Centre, Bridport – 17th November 2012
Audiograft – Oxford Brookes University – February 2013


Through You

February/March 2012

Through You was an interactive active artwork that happened in 2011/12, developed from work started at the Soundfjord Gallery, where we experimented playing sounds into objects
(See previous post

As you can imagine from the title it involved playing sounds through your self. It was one in a series of works made, along with Through Walls and Through The Bathwater.

Beam workshopday participant

I developed a battery kit with sound artist Matt Davies ( ) , where you could walk around and play sounds into any object and yourself. An mp3 player connected to a small amp and battery played sound into a transducer that vibrated sound into objects, and peoples’ bodies. I tried these kits at several places progressively adding different sounds: at Audiograft 2012 – Oxford, Bath Spa University, Oxford Brookes University, BEAM Workshop Day – Brunel University and Fir Tree Junior School – Wallingford.

Bag,transduce and mp3player

Inside the kit bag- a battery and amp

There were several events of Through You, where I introduced more and different sounds for people to play through the transducers. I tried different sounds:

• speech – speeds of sound
• sung vocal sound
• low frequency sounds -both audible and inaudible
• high frequency sounds – both audible and inaudible
• recognisable body sounds like heart beat
• breathing
• less recognisable sounds which were also internal body sounds

[audio:|titles=speech] [audio:|titles=heartbeat] [audio:|titles=hi frequency] [audio:|titles=low frequency] [audio:|titles=sung sound]

I was interested to see what the reaction was of these different sounds. How people heard sounds differently, in this case through them selves, and especially to the reaction of extreme sounds: did they have associations with these odd internal sounds coming to their ears? In the case of the speech, did they for instance listen to the words? Most importantly -What did they think of sounds on the edge of their usual perception?

Participant at Audiograft 2012

I was interested to see what the reaction was of these different sounds. How people heard sounds differently, in this case through them selves, and especially to the reaction of extreme sounds: did they have associations with these odd internal sounds coming to their ears? In the case of the speech, did they for instance listen to the words? Most importantly -What did they think of sounds on the edge of their usual perception?

Visitors to the Soundfjord Gallery -London

It prompted them to think about how we think about our hearing and ask – “what do our ears make us aware of?” I’m inviting participants to become aware of, and question: “which sounds do I heard from within and which sounds from outside?”

The activity of playing sound into the body is unusual, but we are some times aware of sounds from inside our heads. More usual is the internal sound in our ears from either our blood racing when our heart pumps fast or ringing sounds of some sort from tinnitus.

Stidents from Oxford Brookes University – Audiograft 2012

I wanted to form and ask the participants specific questions, but each situation brought the same amazement at the physical behaviour of our body (as a material) and the way it conducted sound and our experience of sound ‘s behaviour in our body – the way we heard it. So experience and exploration needed to come first and then the questions asked needed to arise from individual experiences.

Visitors to the Beam Day Workshop

I wondered how safe an activity this was and asked a Physicist from Bristol University, an Audiologist also from Bristol University, a GP, and an Electro Engineer. Importantly, the main outcome from my enquiries was that in terms of health and safety the activity was safe, but the journey in questioning the different experts introduced me to the span of expertise concerned with our ears and their behaviour.

Knee being tested at Beam Day Workshop

To sum up, this proved to be a rich vein of enquiry, and there was a lot of varied feedback. People were hearing outside sounds from inside themselves, which gave this disembodied sound a disconnectedness that required the listener to think twice about – where they were hearing from.

Steven Connor comments, from his talk Auscultations: Listening I, that the ear is ‘half anatomy and half imagination’. We don’t often focus on where we imagine sounds are heard. Is it heard in the ear – or in the brain registering the ears sounds? ‘If we can say space is described by sound and sound is the space in which it occurs, it causes a disruption in our habit of listening, and listening to inside generated sounds brings a focus to what it means to hear sounds.’

Laurie Anderson’s Table Piece was a beautifully presented gallery example of focusing on sound through the bones of the elbow and arm to the ear.

Bernard Leitner in his piece Sound Chair started a series of work where he developed the idea of sound and music travelling through the body.

Kaffe Mathews – Music for Bodies -Sonic Bed, explored sound, especially vibration travelling through the body.

Multiple sound kits in the making

• ‘Good fun!’
• ‘It’s really cool!’
• ‘Putting the transducer on my temple/side of my skull I had the experience of hearing sounds also on the other side of my head as if from an external sound source/loudspeaker but with nothing there – phantom sound!’
• ‘Great experience. There will be no use of speakers soon!’
• ‘When you put it into your body you start to feel more mechanical about it – is it ‘spatial out’ or ‘spatial in?’
• ‘Well done I really like it – amazing –‘
• ‘I wanted to go on a journey with them and explore making every thing into a speaker. I like that sense if being personal, but they did have a kind of medical quality: the bags and the stainless steel.’

Sound played into the hand

• ‘I almost wanted them to be huge to stand on them – the transducers.’
• ‘ I put them on my spine and it almost hurt and I put them on my ear and elbow and it was nice.’
• ‘I felt it intrusive – very powerful especially not knowing what the sound was.’
• ‘I found it really amazing.’
• ‘It’s an interesting reversal to have instead of the machine recording- it’s ‘out putting’.
• ‘Strange relaxing weird but nice….’
• ‘This is really amazing! Love the low one (sound), it’s very relaxing, clever and I’ve never seen anything like it. Listen with your body.’
• ‘Really nice great invention, heard by your bones it my first time to see it well done
great great great.’

• ‘Awesome idea! Really like the thought of hearing through the body – would be interesting to have a floor of these, all playing different things: as someone walks across the sound and music they hear changes.Delicious!’
• ‘Amazing! A new way of hearing! Feeling some sounds very weird, especially hearing heartbeat inside your head! Great to experience something different.’
• ‘I really loved the heart and lungs – I found it fascinating and hard to put it down!’
• ‘When I tried it – I had a feeling that I doubted my own sense: I felt spooked cos it sounded, when I put it on my head, very loud and I had to ask Aya if she could hear that. ‘
• ‘It’s taking on bits of extraterrestrial technology. It’s enlightening to encounter such things.’
• ‘Mixes sound and touch – like a little hamster vibrating in your hand.’


Ghost Quartet

February 2012

The Ghost Quartet installation was shown at Audiograft 2012 – Oxford. There was an empty space where four chairs, lit by a theatre light, seemed to emit sound.

The idea was developed from a collaboration with sound artist Wajid Yaseen ( at a public work –in- progress event at the London gallery Soundfjord , where a lot of experimentation went on which included playing sounds into objects, buildings and people.

Photo – Sarah Hughes

Each chair in the quartet had a transducer attached to it. Sound was played through the transducer into the chair, and the chair then amplified the sound. The sound wave travelling through the wood amplified the sound wave according to the quality or density of the wood. The main oddness, mismatch or disjuncture of understanding in the scenario was that sound was coming not from either people or speakers but from the chairs themselves. The sight of the empty chairs begged the question –if this was a quartet where were the players?

[audio:|titles=bodysounds1] [audio:|titles=strings] [audio:|titles=bodysounds2]

Photo – Sarah Hughes

We chose for the Ghost Quartet to have music and body sounds that we felt were associated with the look of the chairs as instruments and as chairs belonging in a waiting room . Wajid composed a string quartet and I recorded different internal body sounds. We were drawn to the associations of the look of waiting-room chairs, the medical look of the transducers, the subsequent anthropomorphising of the chairs (looking like they were having treatment), and the quality of the sound through the chairs as amplifiers. We hoped that this would suggest to the visitor that it was it wasn’t just a straightforward recording being played by musicians while you looked at their empty chairs. A theatre light focused on the chairs highlighted the grain of the wood to further highlight the material of the wood and the theatricality of possible narratives assumed by the onlookers.

Listening in – Audiograft 2012

In the collaborative process with Wajid, we were interested in a range of different ideas, and that encouraged us both to try out more options than we would have if we had developed the work on our own. One element of this was the string quartet music, which I wouldn’t have thought to make, and I’m grateful as it has opened me up to ideas of music in this set of developing sound work.

Putting this particular set of elements together has posed questions about odd associations: featuring an object and highlighting its beauty and it being a bog standard kitchen chair, the use of atmosphere with mixtures of unfamiliar body function sounds with calming music, the unfamiliar way the sounds are heard through he wood and why that might be interesting or familiar.

Audiograft 2012

It was fed back to us that it felt odd to bend down before the communal kitchen chairs listening into them, as if treating them almost reverently. Some people wondered what the relationship of the sounds and the music was, and others worked out where the sound was coming from gauging with their ears its unfamiliar route through the chairs.

• ‘What a wonderful experience, I could have stayed here for hours- magic!
• ‘Fascinating experience – chairs as loud speakers/transducers has got me thinking!
• ‘Too creepy like ghosts.’
• ‘Beautiful quartet music – I couldn’t stop dancing…..’
• ‘Really like the quiet moments beautiful composition too
• ‘Eerily beautiful’.
• ‘Great, would be interesting in a wood.’
• ‘Placed at different positions on the chair, what sounds would be generated?
• ‘I wondered if they were speakers or whether the devices were actually using the chairs as diaphragms to produce the sounds. Hypnotic, anyway. Really liked the ssssssh??’
• ‘Nice to hold the sound in my hands.’
• ‘Very interesting love the sound of the heartbeat sounds going through my body.
• ‘Lee showed us the elbow and finger in your ear. Very very interesting sound. A very relaxing room to be in. Feel calm leaving the room.’
• ‘Fantastic/love it.’
• ‘Lush mate.’

Setting up the sound – run from a Max Patch on a Mac Mini in the space.

David Tudor – Rainforest
David Tudors’ 1968 Rainforest piece came up in conversation as an early work where he played and amplified sounds through objects.

Auditioning chairs – these didn’t make it!

Here are three of the chairs ‘waiting in the wings!’

Photo Sarah Hughes

Here they are ‘on stage!’

You will be able to see the Ghost Quartet installation at Brunel University in 2012/13