WHITE NOISE is “any signal that has a similar hissing sound.” Ocean surf is a good example.
White noise can be thought of as redundant and always the same; however, there are many shades and colours of white noise — acoustic pitches that are shaped by nearby stones, hard surfaces, the interplay of weather and the seasons.
THE EBB AND FLOW of water, for instance, generates flavours of white noise that can be used to refashion any space to one’s preferred aesthetic.
PERSISTENT WIND is also a superb tributary of white noise.
The video (below) demonstrates another component of my sonic palette: a prairie grasses/cattail-like sculpture that has sonic crystal qualities to attenuate and shape sound animated by the wind (listen with headphones).
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS over the openings at the top of the pipes, they acoustically come alive with the ‘pop bottle’ effect; the shape and length of the poles can produce a surreal harmonica sound (depending on the strength of the wind).
street prototype #1
SHIFTS OF SOUND are easier to detect by cozying up to the sculpture.
HARD REFLECTIVE SURFACES (such as the bus shelter to the left) redirect street ambience toward and through the ‘sonic crystal’…
By being more attentive to the sonic footprint of landscape architecture, I learned how to optimally situate the sculpture prototypes for best effect.
The relationship between the prototype and a nearby reflective surface can be as affective as natural acoustic filters, such as a tightly knit grove of aspen trees.
aspen grove | northern alberta
YOU CAN HEAR an extraordinary bending of sound near concentrated stands of aspen, birch or lodge-pole pine, cedars too, which break and filter blasts of wind—that’s a sonic crystal effect.
hummingbird | ‘sonic crystal’ prototype #2
BUSY INTERSECTIONS can also be like a persistent wind—accelerating during ‘rush hours’—the sound of the place altered in very short order.
Carefully placed acoustic objects can redirect and repurpose ambient sound in unexpected and pleasing ways.
When you pass by a sonic crystal installation there is noticeable and audible dampening—a momentary dropout of ambient sound from the street—regardless of the intensity of the volume at source (the spacing between the vertical poles create ‘noise cancellation’ effects).
You can also tune a ‘sonic crystal’ to amplify specific pitches of sound by adjusting the gap between the vertical poles, as well as adding poles of various diameters to ricochet and refashion acoustic frequencies.
playful | safe & fun
CHILDREN, in particular, find the sculptures attractive and readily engage with the non-toxic plastic. The poles have some give and gently bend when manipulated, yet retain their shape; there are no sharp edges.
The prototype design mimics the flutter of a hummingbird’s wings—as traffic ebbs and flows, the audible wash of ‘white noise’ shimmers and shifts—filtered through the sculpture as one skirts around it.
HUMMINGBIRD demonstrates how curvilinear poles filter persistent sound.
By imitating nature — think of a tightly knit grove of trees — the poles create the conditions for a ‘sonic crystal’ acoustic metamaterial to filter and attenuate urban noise. In this short demonstration video, you can hear subtle ‘drop outs’ of sound, and shifts of pitch.
A colourful decoy applique attracts passersby; it visually morphs and ‘shape shifts’ as you circle the sculpture, and with every turn draws attention to the ‘sonic crystal’ sound effect.
HUMMINGBIRD sonic sculpture prototypes were made with the support of Edmonton Arts Council and Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation.