There was a short article in the August 2004 issue of The Wire about sound artist Mark Bain. “Equipped with seismometers,” The Wire writes, Bain “can turn architectural structures into giant musical instruments and demolish buildings with sound alone.” His installations have included “sensing devices, oscillators and the occasional sculptural element” – such as the “six metre high inflatable speaker” featured below.

This is the Sonusphere, formerly installed in the Edith Russ Haus, Germany. The Sonusphere musicalizes the effects of plate tectonics: “Modified seismic sensors pick up the normally unheard movements of the earth and are channeled through the entire building until reaching a ‘crescendo’ in Bain’s sonusphere. Unique in its purpose and design, the sonusphere is essentially a wired, inflatable ball that fills the entire upper floor and takes signals generated from an acoustic network running through the entire architecture. It acts as a low frequency, 360 degree, acoustic radiator translating the sound to its curved walls as physically pulsating sound pressure.”
Bain’s work, The Wire explains, references “the ideas of maverick engineer Nikola Tesla.” Tesla’s prolific output and avant-garde electrical ideas inspired Bain to develop “a system for resonating buildings that allowed him to ‘play’ structures. ‘The multi-resonator system I designed could drive waveforms into buildings,’ Bain comments, ‘like giant additive synthesis where you get different beatings of frequencies and shifted harmonics. I was basically designing systems that turned a structure into a musical instrument.'”
Elsewhere, we’re told, “the portable earthquake machines [that Bain] showed in Holland in 2001 produced severe tremors that spread through the surrounding area. Then there was Het Paard, a large music venue in The Hague slated for demolition. The oscillators he attached to the building activated the entire structure, inflicting severe damage on parts of the walls and ceilings.”
Of course, Bain has been on BLDGBLOG before, where we discuss a musical composition of his made entirely from seismic data recorded during the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11 – the trembling of Manhattan turned into a roar of sound. (Listen to an excerpt here).

(Similar ideas are taken up in this post).

5 thoughts on “resonator.bldg”

  1. Why stop there? In the constellation Centaurus, astronomers have identified a diamond with a circumference of nearly four thousand kilometers: the dead heart of a white dwarf. They named it Lucy.

    A white dwarf is a very hot star which has burned off most of its nuclear fuel. What remains is primarily carbon. As the star dies, its core begins to crystallize and compress. Ultimately, implosive forces squeeze it into a massive diamond.

    Apart from the mere fact of what it is, Lucy is remarkable for another reason. It had a sound (not unlike a gong being rung) it radiated into space in the form of radio waves. These waves correspond to seismic transformations during the long process of crystallization. Essentially, the star sang its death song into the ear of space.

  2. “Essentially, the star sang its death song into the ear of space.”

    I see. Thanks for clearing that up.

  3. I just deleted a comment because it contained someone’s email address; but the commenter recommends checking out Cybersonica, for other questions of architecture, sound, and so on.

    And, anon – the waves correspond to seismic transformations during the long process of crystallization – beautifully described! Unfortunately that was an upcoming BLDGBLOG post! Agh! I’ll still post it anyway – it is, after all, the largest (known) diamond in the universe. Thanks for connecting the two.

  4. Geoff,

    I’m sorry to have jumped the gun about Lucy. By the way, did you know it rains diamonds on Neptune? Neptune’s gaseous atmosphere is between ten and fifteen percent methane, a hydrocarbon. As powerful winds churn the air, methane is carried into the dense, molten inner atmospheres. There, at temperatures ranging between three and twelve thousand degrees Fahrenheit, and pressures of two hundred thousand to six million Earth atmospheres, hydrogen atoms are sheared from the carbon atoms to which they were bound. The hydrogen rises. The carbon atoms, infinitesimally heavier, linger and are crushed together by air pressure until they precipitate diamonds. Gravity does the rest. Over Neptune’s rocky, innermost core, there fall diamond rains. Scientists further speculate the core itself is a single, massive black diamond: an infinitely precious treasure, rotating in space, shrouded in a poison mist.

    When I look out my window at night, I think about these things.

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