In 2015 I made SoundHide. This is a structure built out of straw bales to acoustically screen the listener from the very noisy road that passed the River Waveney Study Centre now the Earsham Wetlands Centre at Earsham near Bungay on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.
I was asked to make a sound installation for the Sculpture trail at the centre by Waveney and Blyth Arts. But my first thought was, how can I make a sound installation that competes with the road. I had been thinking of making a SoundHide for some time and this seemed the ideal opportunity to realise it.
My second thought was that the Sculpture trail was in the middle of the day in August, a time when wildlife is particularly quiet. So I have made SoundHide into a bit of a time machine, taking the listener back to spring and the mating of the Barnacle Geese or the dawn chorus on an early May morning. I have also recorded some sounds in water, wood and metal, as well as modulating the frequency of bats into the audible spectrum.
My hope was that people with enter the structure and immerse themselves in these sounds, relax, stop for a while and be refreshed and inspired by these sounds. This certainly seems to be happening:
“your sound hide at the Waveney and Blyth River Waveney Sculpture is a joy within a joy. Perfect and womb-like. I now want one”
“visited SoundHide today – fantastic esp the dawn chorus & the rain!”
“Loving the SoundHide, particularly the bat collection”
“Was at SoundHide today and very impressed. Such inventive use of natural sound to stir emotions. Speaker positioning superb.”
I thought for a long time about making the structure interactive but didn’t want people to spend time trying to work out how it worked, as I do whenever I go into an interactive installation. I wanted them to just listen. So I decided that I would put the interaction outside the structure and make a board that had images of the birds and animals I have recorded and a button to press to hear the sound that animal makes. I was going to use capacitance technology so you only had to touch the picture but there were two problems, firstly how would people know to touch – I’d have to have a big sign – and then it became really sensitive and went off all the time and I found it impossible to calibrate. So buttons it is, “We like buttons” said my daughter when I showed it to her.
Left: “Enjoying the tweets at SoundHide”