Step inside artist Paul Oomen’s massive four-story, 53-speaker sonic art installation

A massive art installation has turned a four story building in Budapest into a giant sound system.

Created by artist Paul Oomen, The Institute of Spacial Sound in Budapest is a special kind of audiovisual art project that uses a 19th century warehouse, 45 omni-directional speakers, and eight subwoofers to create a giant sound space.

The project is the culmination of eight years of planning, and even uses a heavy-duty polymer floor that allows sound waves to travel freely through it — a sort of acoustic membrane that divides the space, but not the sound.

Noises drip and echo throughout the entire interior of the warehouse, which has been lit in “eigengrau” — the special shade of blue that humans see behind their eyelids just before they fall completely asleep. The color, like the sound, is applied non-directionally, so that listeners don’t know where it originates in the space. The idea is to mix visuals with sounds to create an eerie supernatural experience for audiences, which is especially cool in a space so cavernous.

Oomen has spent much of his career exploring the world of psychoacoustics, which is the study of the way that humans perceive sound. Using techniques and insights gained through his formal analysis of human hearing, he is able to manipulate the experience of his audience using speaker placement, sound reflection, and various other physical influencers.

“I have always been interested in the energy released through sounds,” said the artist in an interview with The Spaces, “I began to formulate ideas about the musical dimension of movement in space, applying them to my compositions for operas and theatres. Then I realized I needed a technological system which would allow me to use the spatial element in my music.”

What Oomen has created, in fact, is not just an idle space to explore; In the upcoming few months, twenty sonic artists and musicians will perform as part of a residency program in the cavernous acoustic space, which will transform their music into something new and exciting for all who come to experience it.


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