L: Line Array Public Address System, Heathrow Airport, 2011.

R: Anechoic Chamber, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Department of Imaging Physics, 2015.

Project (2016-)

Padded Sounds: The Latent Aurality of Anechoic Chambers

What is the nature of anechoic experience? What kind of sonic materialities and spatial ontologies are fostered in echoless surroundings, and which sonic models propagate through anechoic practices?

This research probes the anechoic environment for its role in the making of the present-day listener. These specialized echo-dampened facilities, where acoustics, electro-acoustics, and psychoacoustics have been calibrated since the 1940s, create a unique backdrop against which sound is examined. In contrast to the asserted neutrality of such auditory environments, this inquiry examines the particular framing of sonic attention enabled by the chamber. The hunch is that the designed suppression of acoustic energy within the chamber in fact produces modes of sound and listening that far exceed the confines of the test facility.

Moreover, the specific historical context within which anechoic methods evolve is driven by pressing questions relating to sound propagation and reception in combat situations. The physics of aeronautic vibration, battlefield voice transmission, and advanced psychoacoustic experiments intersect at the anechoic chamber to create a set of problems around mechanical noise, speech comprehension, and auditory fatigue respectively. Acoustic measurement procedures, models of hearing, and electro-acoustic innovations pioneered in the chamber carry over into civilian categories of telecommunication, aviation, architecture, and the auto industry, and can be found today in a vast array of personal and public audio techniques.

What kinds of everyday auditory experiences may be invested with latent anechoic reverb? And what implicit anechoic models of the listener are still active in commonplace audio situations? This project experimentalizes contemporary auditory settings by applying a retroactive hearing to formative anechoic procedures and experiments.