Berlin artist blasts street-goers with 4000 watts of audio art

Nik Nowak, a Berlin-based artist, says he “deals with people, sound and machines.” Though simple, it’s an apt description when considering the mad scientist creations he’s come up with that do seem to explore the auditory world with a decidedly human approach. Sennheiser featured Nowak and his “Sound Tank” mobile soundsystem in a video put out as part of its Momentum campaign, a series of videos featuring some of the audio world’s most innovative movers and shakers from the globe over.

The Sound Tank (or “Sound Panzer,” as Nowak refers to it in the video) is a reconfigured mini-dump truck that Nowak was able to transform into a colossal mobile soundsystem. Nowak designed the bass-bumping vehicle’s giant speaker wall with a hydraulic system, enabling him to raise it upright and point the 13 loudspeakers and three 18-inch subwoofers at any target.

Nowak says that his work is all based on drawings, but that sound and drawing merged early on when he first started crafting these freakish soundsystems. Sennheiser’s video features some shots of Nowak’s drawings, which give off a Leonardo da Vinci-esque ingenious artist/inventor vibe. Someone fired a gun next to Nowak’s ear as a young child, and as a result the artist lost the ability to hear high frequencies with his right ear. “That experience brought home to me the extent to which sound can shape reality,” Nowak muses in the video.

The project currently on Nowak’s plate is “Echo.” His basic idea is to equip a radio mast with loudspeakers and connect it to two autonomous robots that record language with a directional microphone and echo it back into the environment. One of the drones gives instantaneous direct feedback through a directional loudspeaker (a directed echo), while the other drone transmits the sound to the mast and broadcasts it to the public at large. According to a story by Ohio Edit, the project has debuted as a kind of performance art in which the two Roomba-like drones weave in and out of the audience. One of them records smaller individual snippets from the audience and plays them back. The other records both the audience’s noises along with the mechanical whirring of the drones themselves, and then transmits them to two stacks of speakers at the opposing ends of the room.

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