Sounding Door (2009) is an interactive sound art installation designed to turn any door into a unique musical instrument and a stage at once. Equipped with custom-designed electronics and software, the installation plays and composes sounds according to the door’s movements, that is, its position, speed and acceleration.
The sound art installation Sounding Door explored the potential of the door’s sonic aesthetics. The special electronic equipment installed in the front door of the building of Lithuanian Academy of Music enabled composers, musicians, sound designers and artists to sonify the act of opening or closing the door and the ritual of stepping over the threshold. The participating authors shaped the door’s sonic character, created the building’s “voice”, made their contribution to the city’s soundscape or just composed music for the door. The latter became both a musical instrument and a stage, while the composers and the “users” of the door alike acted as performers.
Sound designers create the sounds of mobile phones, crispy corn flakes and even hairdryers, while apparently leaving such essential element of daily experience as the door without due attention. Although sound design and architectural acoustics have become disciplines in their own right, the sound of architecture itself is still rarely discussed. Why are we confined to choosing a door for our home space only based on the visual characteristics of the former and not, for instance, the specific sound of its hinges?
The sound of the door constitutes a unique element of the experience of architectural objects, or even represents the “face” of a building. The door is one of the few architectural elements that actually demand an active and personal involvement on the part of the visitor. When we open the door, we “shake hands” with the building and thus symbolically greet it. The sound of the door (e.g. the sound of the hinges, tapping, gradually unfolding soundscape from behind the door), as the building’s voice, greets the entering one and amplifies the sense of stepping over the threshold. It also has a similar influence on those who are not in direct contact with the door at that moment: for instance, the creaking sound of the hinges informs us that someone is about to step over the threshold and will enter or leave our space soon. This sonic reaction can also have a very personal value – some people may recognise their relatives from the way the door sounds when the latter open it. Thus, the sound of the door, penetrating both public and private spaces, plays an important part in developing the culture of sonic environments.
An international open call for sound works was announced to realise this part of the project. These were to be submitted in standard audio format (up to 30 seconds in length) or as software patches designed to match the hardware used by Sounding Door. Eighteen works were selected, and their reproduction was adapted to the kinematics of the door – the velocity of turning, acceleration and current position, all tracked by special sensors in real time. Unique loudspeakers that turn any hard surface into a sound source were employed to sonify the door, thus making the latter become a loudspeaker itself. The schedule of the door’s “concerts” was generated randomly, with the software loading a new track automatically every two minutes.
The installation was created in 2009 in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a part of the larger project, Talking Doors, which was supported by the national program “Vilnius European Cultural Capital 2009.” The project won a number of awards, one of which was Distinction in the Interactive Art category of Prix Ars Electronica 2010. It was acquired by the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM) collection.
Concept and design: Julijonas Urbonas
Electronics: Julijonas Urbonas
Programming: Julijonas Urbonas, Sebastian Lexer
Photography: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius (aka dualhead)
Technical assistance: Paulius Vitkauskas
Sound compositions: Giulio Aldinucci [IT], Eli Chochova [MK], Diego Dall'Osto (ES), Dora Doncheva-Bulart [BG], Maria Juur [EE], Neil Kaczor [UK], Dagmar Kase [EE], Eimantas Kutra [LT], Kevin Logan [UK], Paul Nataraj [UK], Luciano Olzer [IT], Ufuk Onen [TR], Hugo Paquete [PT], Fred Pinault [FR], Shawn Pinchbeck [CA], Nada Prija [UK/MK], Augustas Ribokas [LT], Frauke Schmidt (DE), Julijonas Urbonas [LT], Andrea Vigani (IT), Paolo Vivian [IT], Vincent Wikstrom (DE), Franziska Windisch (DE)