Home electronics – 10 December

My favourite thing about working with other people – and one of the reasons why I favour a participatory, collaborative approach to making work – is that other people bring completely fresh perspectives.

SW 2065, image © MoDA and used with kind permission

For instance this wallpaper design in the MoDA collection (which only makes me think of Victorian biology textbooks) gave several people whom I interviewed an impression of the human nervous system.

The human nervous system does apparently produce a high-pitched buzz, (famously heard by John Cage in an anechoic chamber) but I do not have any recording equipment capable of faithfully documenting this sound. The closest I could get to it – hidden, barely audible, produced by continuously flowing electricity – was to record the circuitry in my home using an electric pick up coil. This is a selection of staticky electronic sounds from around my home, used to evoke the idea of the fuzzing, buzzing circuitry of the body’s own nervous system.

I have mixed feelings about these sounds – they are not very easy to listen to, or melodic. However these are the sounds of the electronic systems on which the Internet, the telephone, the Skybox, the television etc. depend. Although we do not hear these sounds at a very loud level with our natural hearing, there is nonetheless a sort of low level background hum which defines the sonic texture of the modern house. When we had a powercut here a week or so ago, our home was silent in a way that I don’t recall it ever being before.

As silent, in fact, as it might have been in the 1930s when SW 2065 was originally printed!

I have one copy of the Sonic Wallpapers book to give to someone who would like to have a domestic listening experience for themselves! The book has all 18 wallpaper designs from the MoDA collection used in this project, and a CD in the back which contains all the sound pieces. There are introductions both by myself and Zoe Hendon who is the curator of MoDA, and notes on what people said, and what sounds were recorded, for each wallpaper included in the project.

Sonic Wallpapers book

Sonic Wallpapers CD

To win a copy of the book, you just need to leave a comment on this post: -> http://thedomesticsoundscape.com/wordpress/?p=4655 about a wallpaper that you remember from your life, and one sound you recall from the room where that wallpaper was. If you cannot think of a wallpaper design and a sound, you could also leave one thought/response you have to this project. On 24th December, I will draw a number at random and post out a copy of the book to the winner!

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