Pearls – 14 December

As with some of the other papers I’ve mentioned, this one instantly suggested a series of different sounds to record, because of the various reactions people had to it. The aged patina and obvious signs of heat-damage inevitably made people think about old things. Anthony found it reminded him of dental surgeries in converted Victorian suburban houses, while someone else had the idea that it was like an old Aunty’s jewellery box.

BADDA 4386 image © MoDA and used with their kind permission

I sought both for dental surgeries and jewellery which might date from a similar period (late 1960s) as this wallpaper; a vintage texture in sound that would reflect the vintage texture of this fragment. The sheen on the paper bothered some people, and I wanted a way of referencing that mixture of glamour and discomfort. I focussed on the sounds of vintage dentistry tools (with help from The British Dental Association Museum) and vintage costume jewellery pearls (with help from Barnet Museum). The idea was to suggest the lovely surfaces of pearls and also the scratchy discomfort of visiting the Dentist’s. I hoped the references would work together because of that old adage that the best way to test a pearl’s authenticity is to bite it – a process which I always found thoroughly foul, and which nearly always ended up with one getting brittle flakes of paint in one’s mouth! I guess I never bit into a real pearl.

As with Wendy’s Loom, I recorded the vintage pearls using both contact microphones attached to a table on which I moved the pearls, and with a stereo shotgun microphone, which captures something of the atmosphere in Barnet Museum.

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: -> 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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