Work of DMU academic to be showcased at prestigious New York museum

The work of a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic is being featured at a prominent New York museum.

Interactive and Media Technology lecturer Chris Feakes worked with former DMU senior lecturers Dr Lorenzo Picinali and Eujin Pei (Principal Investigator) on a project called ‘Sound Sphere’.

Sound Sphere

The project involved creating a computer programme which maps the sounds made by music to sculpt a sphere shape into a spikey object to reflect the sounds made by a specific song. It is then manufactured using 3D printing.

Some spheres have been made using music from Beethoven through to more contemporary songs by artists such as Notorious B.I.G. and The Distillers.

The spheres will now be shown at New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum in the ‘Senses: Design Beyond Vision’ exhibition, which runs from 13 April to 28 October this year.

The exhibition focuses on sensory exploration and will explore how multisensory design amplifies everyone’s ability to receive information, explore the world, satisfy essential needs and experience joy and wonder.

The Cooper Hewitt is a prestigious Smithsonian museum in the heart of Manhattan and Chris says he is ‘very proud’ to have his work featured in such a significant setting.

He said: “It’s a bit surreal to be honest, especially with it being part of the Smithsonian Institute because that’s such a big institution for museums and galleries.

“I’ve had my work showcased in small exhibitions but this is the first time it’s been picked up by a really big public gallery or museum.”

Eujin Pei added: “This project was truly multi-disciplinary in nature and it has been a great honour to see the project being exhibited at a prestigious American design museum. The many conversations that I have had with Chris and Lorenzo also helped us gain confidence in working with people outside of one’s research domain.”

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The different spheres provide an interesting contrast in the sounds produced by different genres of music.

Chris explained: “It varies a lot on genre. For example in hip-hop you tend to get a lot of heavy sharp spikes at the bottom of the sphere while the top is a lot smoother, whereas something like rock music much more chaotic with spikes and contours all over the place.”

These variations led to the idea of showing the spheres to deaf people to help give them a better appreciation of music.

Chris said: “Profoundly deaf people can read music and feel vibrations but they don’t instantly get an aesthetic appreciation of it.

“We thought we could present a sphere to somebody who is profoundly deaf and they wouldn’t be able to tell anything about the composition of it, they’d just know whether they like the look of it or not. That’s why it’s been picked up by the exhibition, which is all about sensory explorations.”

Sound Spheres will be featured at the Cooper Hewitt Museum from 13 April to 28 October 2018.
Posted on Friday 13th April 2018

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