Sound is not Music. Hearing is not Listening. The sonic manifestations of objects affect our lives, even though they remain under the threshold of conscious attention most of the time.
The works exhibited in Oslo play with the threshold of attention, by bringing to the foreground the complexities of the sonic world. You do not need a special attitude to experience the exhibition. You do not go there for listening, as if you would if you were in a concert hall. Instead, you go there to touch, act, explore. Sound is functional to active explorations, it does not exist without gesture. Sound affords action, even virtuosic action in some cases.
The artists and scientists selected by Frauke Behrendt and Trond Lossius for this exhibition have been keen to develop the expressive possibilities of human-object interaction mediated by sound. When an object becomes a means for expressive interaction, this inevitably leads to playful use and creative exploration. Expressive interfaces unleash a performance potential for manipulative gestures. Therefore, I expect the visitors to be engaged in playful interactions and explorations. Ultimately, the success of the exhibition will be measured in terms of how the installations solicit new actions from the audience, actions that were not part of the original design stage of the designers, artists and scientists producing the works.
The sounds generated by the exhibited installations are there to be experienced through the body. Sometimes the whole body - via sitting, walking, or swinging - sometimes just the fingertips, via exploratory touch actions or articulatory gestures. Sound is not for the ears only. Sound affords bodily experiences.
Walking out of this exhibition, your perception of sound in the world is likely to have changed. Sound is not just a side effect of human actions, as it can actually drive human behaviors. Sounding objects give opportunities for composing informative and pleasant soundscapes, and the quality of our acoustic environments is much more than a measure of sound pressure expressed in decibel. There is a whole design space for sound in interaction, whose surface has been scratched by this exhibition, and that will be the playground for many artists, designers, and scientists in the years to come.
Davide Rocchesso is the Chair of the EU COST IC0601 Action on Sonic Interaction Design (SID)