The main concept behind Sound Jewelry, a sound installation work collaboratively designed by researcher Takuya Yamauchi and composer Toru Iwatake, involves creating an interactive sound environment for its audience by using a spatial sensing system and a Personal Area Network (PAN). One of its exhibitions took place in 2007 at Amsterdam’s Fourth International Mobile Music Workshop. Originally coined by Iwatake, Sound Jewelry asks participants to hold musical objects in their hands or wear the apparatuses around their necks. These devices emit “melodies” that will either change or exchange depending on the distance between the participants. The actual spatial sensing system comprises of a location system that estimates the site of two wall-mounted indoor “listeners” and the position of eight “senders” (i.e. the sound jewelry) worn by the participants. Connected to a master server, the “listeners” receive supersonic waves from the “senders”. The master server then measures and calculates the locations of the “senders” and transmits the results to the media application, whose outputs are heard from four speakers that surround the room. Evident from this process, Yamauchi and Iwatake’s work consists of two layers of sounds: the generated “melodies” in the foreground and the ambient sounds emanating from the speakers in the background. Additionally, as the number of participants increase, the sound changes become more complex.
As an evolving project, Sound Jewelry provides its participants with a completely immersive music experience. Considering the social and cultural contexts of this project, Yamauchi and Iwatake’s application of supersonic sensors and PAN offers a simple localization system that gives their participants not only spatial information, but also knowledge of the social/cultural context in which the participants themselves currently exist in. For instance, while walking around in the interactive environment the participants can feel each other’s presence in a way that differs entirely from day-to-day interactions. The sound jewelry devices present a new form of social communication through the changes in emitted sounds and melodies triggered by the varied distances between participants. Distance, in this case, possesses consequences for the content of sound. This feature interestingly emphasizes the distinction between each level of social interaction that takes place depending on the amount of spatial separation between two people. In addition to distance, the participants’ physical conditions such as body temperature and heartbeat can also affect the musical parameters of the wearable devices.
This project contends with issues that surround the world of sound art. Sound Jewelry explores spatial and temporal boundaries by utilizing sound to break down the conceptual wall between the exhibition’s visitors and the artwork. The public itself becomes the sole contributor to Yamauchi and Iwatake’s sound environment. As a result, this project raises awareness of the listener’s experience with sounds in everyday circumstances. Participants may also become more conscious of and connected to the subject of sound and how it constantly surrounds us. Furthermore, the melodies created also make the spatial aspects of social interaction more tangible. All of this might then help participants generate meaning of what it means to be human from what they hear on a regular basis.
– Crystal Sun