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Sympathetic Vibration (Prolongation of Sound by Reflection)

[Full article published in eContact! 11.2 — Figures canadiennes (2) / Canadian Figures (2)]


Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, Session 4: Soundscapes / Installations
Friday 8 August, 15:30–16:30. Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
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The idea is not to try and create something completely new, but to enlighten some fading practices.

I began collecting sounds during May 2007, wandering around campus; armed with a number of small recording devices, recording the most noticeable sounds I could possibly hear. Once I started to playback the sounds I found myself gravitating towards the smaller sounds or those that might otherwise be overlooked — i.e. the faint sound of the electricity in the wall, the water running through the pipes, etc. I shortly returned armed with a number of contact microphones, this enabled me to attach devices to the walls, windows, pipes and just about anything else I could lay my hands on, picking up every possible microscopic sound. In addition to microphones I used an electromagnetic coil to collect sound though electronic frequencies emanating from such devices as mobile phones, radio microphones and when near a location using a number of electronic devices — i.e. an IT room — I managed to pick up little sections of slightly distorted conversation between the staff and students.

During the summer I managed to sweet talk several members of staff to carry out project “Internal Broadcast”. The idea behind the project was to record a day in a life of an internal mail envelope. I inserted a very small microphone into an envelope for those lovely people to carry around with them wherever they went (yes, even the toilet in some cases!) passing on the envelope every 30–40 minutes, recording their every move. In another attempt to capture as much information as possible, I interviewed a number of students and members of staff, asking key questions about their own personal experiences of the sounds they hear, whilst on campus. The results were varied, with people commenting on the sounds they hear, whilst walking through the Quad, listening to the birds nesting; traffic passing by along Lord Mayor’s walk to the sound of countless different accents from all over the world. Once I collected all the information I dissected each fragment of conversation, taking the highlights and most interesting aspects.

One of the fundamental aims of the project is to assist both staff and students who are visually impaired, aiding them by using sound to identify their location. Having little knowledge of what it might be like to walk around the campus without the benefit of sight, I contacted a visually-impaired student, who kindly explained to me the fact that he felt that vision is possibly overrated as much as the use of hearing is overlooked, something that I had never really thought about until then. The idea was then to develop a soundwalk around campus, set out a route and walk around using a binaural microphone. Obviously we hear different sounds each day at different times in the year. Clearly the same could be said about the things we see. In order to encompass the true sounds reflected across campus, a telescope was used to collect the light; photoelectric sensors were attached to audio cable collecting light from the eye-end of the telescope, which then translates discreet light sources into sound. Collecting light samples from inside particular rooms, also from external parts of the campus. I found this method much more successful at night, recording the lights in the building as they were turned on and off, emitting small pulses of sound which varied in both tone and pitch.


Designer of sound, musician and phonographer, Markus Jones was educated at the Royal Northern College of Music and at the University of York. Largely focusing on site-specific and installation work by simply offsetting our normal perception, given that the aim is to replicate a subjective experience of the surrounding sonic environment, collecting sound based on its original origin before twisting it into my interpretation of the original source. Recent residency includes spending a year as an Artist-in-residence at York St. John University, collecting the sounds heard across campus using a mixture of lo-tech means and digital plug-ins.

Paper originally presented at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium 2008, August 2008.

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