Prototype 4: Sonic Portal

Prototype 4: Sonic Portal

Sonic Portal brings together artists and audiences. Focusing on sound as a medium of communication, it allows both to reflect on the state of current and future workspaces. Nowadays people live in their own spaces, wearing headphones and moving about in their own isolated worlds. Sound, by its very nature, is territorial. We can control sound – and, by … Continue reading Prototype 4: Sonic Portal

8 March 2016  //  Radek Rudnicki


Sonic Portal brings together artists and audiences. Focusing on sound as a medium of communication, it allows both to reflect on the state of current and future workspaces.

Nowadays people live in their own spaces, wearing headphones and moving about in their own isolated worlds. Sound, by its very nature, is territorial. We can control sound – and, by extension, the environment we live in – by wearing headphones or changing the volume on our loudspeakers.

While many people are very keen on using cameras and their mobile phones to document and share different moments of their lives through images, sound often isn’t shared in the same way. In response, my project focuses on this overlooked element in an attempt to harness sound as a means of social interaction.

Drawing attention to the important, but often overlooked, auditory aspects of everyday and creative spaces, the Sonic Portal project would initially invite artists, students, musicians, creative technologists, jewellery makers, etc. (and eventually a wider audience) to share their spaces with one another sonically – through sound.

Audiences would be invited to share the sounds of the spaces they currently live in and those they would like to inhabit in the future. Sourcing sounds from their current working environments, this act of sharing would offer an insight into a participant’s workspace – the materials they both create with and live among – and allow us to reflect on the spaces we currently live in everyday.

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Inspiration from Innovation Lab discussion

One phrase that came up at the beginning of our discussion at the Innovation Lab was really inspiring:

To be free citizens you have to be equal, and equally, producers and consumers

By sharing the sounds of their own spaces at the same time as listening to those of others, people who participate in the Sonic Portal project become both producers and consumers of the work.

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Offering people a wide range of different methods via which to share and interact with other people’s soundscapes – including both digital and analogue devices such as mobile phones, laptops, computers, voice recorders and analogue radios – the audience for the work can also be wide, available to owners of a variety of different devices.

We also spoke about sound the idea of ‘hacking’ spaces through sound – creating a sort of ‘sound mob’ (or aural flash mob). Related to this, we came up with the idea of an interactive installation in which participants could sound-hack a gallery or public space with their own sounds, creating a sonic portal into their own spaces – making the private public.

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Technical setup

To make this idea reality, I would suggest harnessing an existing platform such as SoundCloud. Many people already use the platform and so it already has a built-in audience. It allows for sharing sounds via email, social media, live streaming and even lets people download sounds directly from the site. Each sound can be can be commented on at any point on the track’s timeline, allowing people to share reactions or feedback immediately. Users can set up anonymous accounts if they wish and can share photos as covers for their own sounds – showing, perhaps, a visual representation of the captured space. There is also space for a note or verbal description for each of the uploaded sounds.

In the case of the ‘sound mob’ idea, all sounds would be played back in a gallery or public space using multiple analogue radios, with a computer streaming sounds via algorithms tapping into multiple radio frequencies. A soundcard could be connected to the computer with multiple outputs, and an FM transmitter could be connected to each of these outputs. This would allow for the streaming of different sounds on multiple channels at the same time. Audiences would be able to walk around in the space and turn the dials on the radios to hear different shared sounds. I would suggest using 10-20 radios for this event in mid-sized gallery room, but some experimentation may have to be carried out with regards to numbers and volume levels.

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Using analogue radios – a piece of equipment that many people may be familiar with – introduces an interactive aspect that would be encouraged in the installation. Adding a human element to the mix, the analogue and the digital are brought together in one unique art piece.

 

Summary

• Audience shares auditory aspects of their workspaces online
• Audience shares the sound of spaces they would like to be, or live in, in the future
• Streamed on variety of digital devices
• Sharing one-to-one and to a large group
• Art installation produces a collage of all sounds available or uploaded online
• Use of tuneable analogue radios introduces an interactive element to the installation
• Piece raises awareness of artists, creatives and their workflow, and of the overlooked auditory aspects of everyday life

 

Sonic Portal (prototype website): http://radek-rudnicki.net/sonicportal

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