Rob Davis


The aim of this work was to create a system that produces a sequence of sounds in response to sound derived from the gallery space, contingent upon previous sounds such that the sounds produced exhibit hysteresis. Sounds emitted by 'murmur' always depend on previously sensed sounds and how they relate to one another in sequence and structure and slowly build over time to form a site specific audio track. Becoming acoustically ‘entangled’ in the work, all visitors contribute to the final sound sequence of the installation.

The project highlights the traces we inadvertently leave behind us as we move, talk and respire. To reach the speaker array to listen to this sound sequence visitors contribute to the sounds that they listen to, all observation at some level is an active process, both internally as we interpret our environment, imposing conscious and subconscious expectations on our sensations, and externally as our presence induces change in our environment.

Murmur installed at Area 10 Project Space, Eagle Wharf, Peckham Hill Street, London, UK, 11th April 2008 - 12th April, 2008

A microphone placed near the entrance of the gallery captures the sounds of individuals entering the space, in another location a speaker array periodically emits a sound composed of the variously correlated sounds captured from the entrance to the space. Software periodically samples a few seconds of the ambient sounds at the gallery entrance, these sampled sounds are then incorporated into the existing sound track that the exhibit plays. Rather than simply mixing together new and old recordings the sampled sounds are compared with the currently stored sound track, and when a maximal correlation is found are combined with this track to give a new sound sequence in such a way that similarly structured acoustic events become amplified and generalised. If a sound is novel then the program adds it such that the track lengthens a little, in this way the track expands to incorporate novel acoustic features of the gallery space and is unique to this space and to its visitors. Being a dynamic system each visitor modifies the exhibit with each visit and thus each viewing is unique.

The speaker array is composed of 52 transducers to form a single panel measuring approximately 1m by 1m, this imparts a substantially directional nature to the sounds emitted, creating an almost beam like quality at some frequencies, and imparts an unexpected quality to the sound field.

The result of 2 days running Murmur for the the launch event of the Area10 New Media Platform can be heard here (2.9MB).