Audible Memories



As we grow older our hearing deteriorates and our perception of sound changes.


As a child, most of us are able to hear up to a frequency of 20kHz, however this becomes limited as we get older. At just eight years old our upper frequencies start to be reduced, with most adults only being able to hear up to frequencies of 16kHz.

Throughout our lives, sound and music affect us both physically and emotionally. Certain sounds can evoke specific memories, holding a certain nostalgia and meaning. For this project we wanted to exploit this phenomenon through a playful, evocative experience.

The gallery/exhibition visitor enters an apparently silent room. Laying about in this space are three oversized, ambiguous objects bearing resemblance to children’s toys. Also present is a listening device resembling an ear trumpet. The participant is invited to wear this device, allowing them to hear noise. As they explore the space the hearing aid allows them to tune in to sounds emitting from the sound objects.

The three objects act as visual cues to childhood and have embedded within them a speaker playing sound at inaudible frequencies. This sound is a mixture of noises from childhood (e.g. ice cream van jingle) as well as conversation with and noises made by children.

The wearable device houses a microphone and a bone-conductive transducer. The microphone picks up the ‘invisible’ signal, transmitting it to a Mac Mini hidden in the space. A Max MSP script transposes the frequency to an audible level before sending it back to the headset to sound through the transducer. The transducer sends vibrations directly to the skull, leaving the ear open to the ambient sounds of the space.

This experience was created with the intention to muster childhood memories and allow people to re-awaken a sense of wonder about their environment.

Collaboration with Heidi Benham, Laura Gottlieb and Gemma Roper.
Mark