Soundpocket 1: disturbing the soundscape


I made Soundpocket 1 as part of the exhibition urban interface oslo fall 2007.
From urban interface oslo blog:
“Hauntings? Dimension Doors? Time tunnels?
A boy heard what appeared to be the sound of a sheep coming from the wall of Strykejernet Art School.
A bartender at Blå was concerned when he heard running water like that from a leaking water pipe. The sound disappeared before he was able to locate it.
A seagull can be heard, but is nowhere to be seen.
Soundpocket artist HC Gilje is causing slight disturbances in the urban interfaces.”

Using a directional soundbeam to project a localized sound into a public space, this sound being only heard by the people within the sound beam which can be as narrow as 50 cm in diameter. It is similar to a lightbeam, only being sound instead. When it hits a surface it is reflected.
Soundpocket 1 was installed in a narrow passageway in Oslo, connecting two parts of the city. The soundbeam was mounted on a pan/tilt head making it possible to place the sounds very precisely in the passageway.

By bouncing the sound off surfaces, it seems as if the sound is coming from a window, door, elevator, a poster on the wall or just a more general presence. This made the piece into something which added another layer of sound to the existing soundscape, blending (sometimes disappearing) into the location.
Most of the sounds would appear to belong to the site, although dislocated (like the sound of the chandelier in the wind), the sounds of birds, telephones, babies crying, dogs barking, water running etc.

It was interesting to see how the piece was received. It was obvious for me that it wouldnt work very well as a typical art piece, it has a much more interventionist nature. I wanted it to be slight distortions to the regular soundscape of the passageway, and was pleased to see that the people who used this passageway regularly were noticing these disturbances. This could be described using the first of Barthes´ three listening modes: hearing involves “evaluation of the spatio-temporal situation“ and thus, it is linked to a “notion of territory“. It places the listener on alert when new sounds which dont´t “fit in” are heard.
By adding an extra layer of sound if also made people focus on the sounds which were already there.

The inspiration from this comes from when I studied in Trondheim in the 90ies, and I heard some stories about how a directional speaker had been used to cause a certain distress on a bridge over the local river: A person walking alone across the bridge suddenly hear whispering voices. An out of tune clarinet is projected into a marching band playing on the 17th of may (Norway´s national holiday).
If these stories are true or not, doesnt really matter, it is the idea of having a private experience in a public space which intrigued me.

Soundpockets is a series of projects of intimate sound interventions in public spaces. By using fm radiowaves, soundbeams and miniature speakers to create local pockets of sound, the different projects have different scope and focus: creating private listening rooms, changing soundtracks of a location, displacement of time/or space and a bit of general disruption of everyday life.