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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2008-10-06 18:48:46

So one of the exhibits that I saw on Saturday night (well, technically Sunday morning) was called Turbulence Sound Matrix: Signe. There were 64 speakers in a spherical arrangement (8 curved pillars, each with 8 speakers) that were all generating different sounds. When you walk in it just sounds like a lot of random noise, and really that's all it is. It's not quite white noise, because each speaker is generating the same noise in a loop so there are patterns. But if you just stand there listening to it it sounds pretty random and you get bored after a few seconds.

However, if you go around and put your ear next to some of the speakers, you can focus on the single sound that is coming out of that speaker. The sound by itself is identifiable (one sounded like typewriters, one like the wind, etc.*). After listening to a few of those speakers, if you go back to standing in the middle and listening to the combination of them all, it doesn't sound random any more. You can isolate the different parts of the noise and focus on them individually.

* Actually there were a few that sounded like typewriters and the wind, although they were different from each other. But that's beside the point.**
** Yes, there is a point.

Posted by Varun at 2008-10-06 19:22:30
Do you find that you have to look at it in order to focus your mind on the single source?

I find I can listen to a conversation clear across the room if I'm looking at the people talking, or I can pick out a single instrument in an orchestra if I'm looking at it. Downside is, I can't hear stuff around me properly then...
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Posted by stak at 2008-10-06 19:27:34
No, I didn't have to be looking at it. All the speakers were identical anyhow, and I didn't remember exactly which ones made which sounds. I actually closed my eyes while listening afterwards, and it was easier to concentrate and isolate the different sounds.

I know what you mean about the visual cues though, I've experienced that as well. However, I find that I can also listen to conversations if I know the voices of the people talking well enough. Noisy rooms with lots of people you know (e.g. a classroom before the prof arrives) is a good place to practice :)
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