Happy New Year!

It’s been a very great pleasure to read all your comments on the Sonic Wallpaper Advent Calendar posts.

Sonic Wallpaper is about using sound to expand on wallpaper as a specifically domestic and everyday material; about using sound to accentuate memories and associations with places and specific types of architecture; about honouring and celebrating the everyday conversations that we have about wallpaper; (“that would be far too busy in our living room; but imagine it on the stairs!”) and about expanding how we normally think about this material to include an aural or listening dimension. It was my intention that the sound pieces and all the sounds recorded for the project would trigger viewers’ own memories about wallpapers they had used or seen, and open up new ways of interpreting or exploring existing wallpapers (such as those in the MoDA Wallpaper collection).

Gauging the success or failure of any art project is a tricky but necessary business with many factors to take into account, but your comments have been extremely heartening for me to read, and have led me to believe the project has at least achieved some of what I had hoped it might.

Thank you all very much for listening, reading, writing and thinking here.

Your comments are so full of wallpaper/memory/sonic detail that I am republishing some of them here, to save readers trailing back through all 24 Advent Calendar posts to find all your rich Sonic Wallpaper writings.

I especially liked reading Jen‘s detailed description of her morning soundscape – the ‘tinging’ of the metal woodstove and the crackling of a fire:

Oak burning, and ‘crackling’ in the woodstove next to me. The stove itself is heating up, and the metal (joints and such) is expanding and ‘tinging’ a bit. I just heard the oven gas go on to bring the chamber up to 200degreeF temperature, as I’m lightly toasting some raw almonds. I hear a buzz, I think it’s in my ears, but could very possibly be a vibration from the refrigerator, or the water heater.. or it’s just my head filling in the washover from all the distracting household sounds of early morning. Clock ticking too. My own breathing. It’s only getting light out, so no ravens out yet… making their usual riot.


Julie’s comment is also full of sounds and textures; Tweetie Pie’s tiny feet on the ceiling and the brushing of paste onto paper. I wonder if the wallpaper type she describes is woodchip? I can’t remember off the top of my head whether or not this particular bit of interview made it into the final Sonic Wallpaper edits, but someone else mentioned in the interviews that one of the textured wallpapers reminded them of their Dad swearing in frustration at trying to hang the stuff:

I can’t recall what this “wallpaper” was called – the name is on the tip of my tongue – but it was that white textured paper that you then painted over.
My Dad hung it on the ceiling of the front room/living room (my, this is like time travel to the distant past!) A small child version of me “helped” him. There was “real” wallpaper on the walls (stripey stuff) but that didn’t intrigue me nearly as much as the paper that you stuck up…AND THEN PAINTED!!!!

So the first sounds I associate with that paper are brushing of paste and sounds of going up and down a ladder, and my Dad trying not to swear in front of me!

Then the sound of my childhood pet, Tweetie Pie the Budgie (whose cage was in that room) making his budgerigar sounds. Most particularly (because it also involved Dad trying not to swear) when Tweetie got out of his cage, he would fly up to the pelmet board and run from end to end to avoid re-capture. His little tapping feet were right up there beside the paper on the ceiling.

Perhaps children just spend more time gazing up, but that ceiling always intrigued me. Thanks for the visit back in time.

Oh, and I wonder how many children can remember the design of the wallpaper, the corner of which they tweaked up so that they could leave a secret message underneath!

– Julie

I thought this line, from Janet, was also really evocative and to me indicates how familiar we become with certain spaces and surfaces; “a house I lived in a few years ago had a peeling, sun marked, fake brick wall paper in the entrance hall.”

Finally, Chris’s comments here is full of sounds and textures – again, the sounds of fire and a grate feature, and the description of the muffled thud produced by a bucket full of ash is perfect – you can hear it just reading her words:

This project is the best at rubbing the visual environment against a sound to find a memory.

Once there was some greenish flock on a pale cream paper. It was Georgian, in a 1970s way, and lived in a sitting room that remembered being a kitchen to a darker, more Victorian house.

For a long time the range had been silent but after noise, dust and general upheaval there was again a fire in the grate of an evening which every morning needed to be renewed.

The old range had the sharp ring of cast iron moving over ash. The new fireplace with its chrome surround had a deep ash bucket which could be removed with a muffled, replete thud.

A fresh fire would arrive soon.

– Chris

I also appreciated Colleen’s comment here, in which she remarks especially on mixing the actual culinary din of her washing up and morning coffee rituals with my recorded culinary din, composed to accompany BADDA 4774 in the MoDA Wallpaper collection.

A Thank You is specifically due to The Knit Nurse for identifying the mystery bird at Ipdsen as a wren – Thank you, Knit Nurse!

Audioboo proves extremely useful here, as you can compare my recording of “Mystery bird at Ipsden” with this recording by Tony Whitehead (he has loads of brilliant bird recordings actually, well worth checking out) to hear the similarities:

Fire appears in two of the comments that I’ve referred to here… it is one of the first sounds which delineated any human living spaces as being specifically “home”. From our earliest days on this Earth, we have gathered around the warmth, smoky fragrance, and pleasing crackles of fires. I often think about the way The Domestic Soundscape has changed; our ancestors in the very earliest settlements would not have heard the ‘tings’ of iron stoves, or have lit ranges inside rooms covered in flock wallpaper, for example – and the sounds of refrigerators, cars, and other modern appliances are very recent additions to The Domestic Soundscape – however the sound of wood burning is ancient. I wonder if this is why it seems to be especially memorable or pleasurable?

You can hear the sound of a fire taking on another Sonic Advent Calendar – this one was produced in 2008 for the Sound Diaries website which I co-run with Paul Whitty. I recorded the sound at our own fireplace and it sounds as good this Winter as it did four years ago!


To pick a winner for the copy of The Sonic Wallpaper Book, I numbered all the comments posted here – excluding those left both my Mum and Colleen, who already have copies of the book! – and used the random number generator at random.org to generate a winner. The number is 4, which means that Jen is the winner of the book. Congratulations!

Thank you all for a wonderful sonic start to 2013, and for helping me remember why I started exploring The Domestic Soundscape in the first place. I hope you all have good, comforting sounds to get you through the damp dark greys of January; at present I am listening to the tip tap of a new computer keyboard and the whirring of the washing machine as it churns around some bits of fabric I intend to turn into cheering patchwork.

More of this in coming days.

Happy New Year!

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