Tuesday, 3 July 2012
An Indian Restaurant, fuzzy felt, and candlelight
BADDA 2301 image © MoDA Museum
This is one of the designs in the MoDA Museum Wallpaper collection which has been used for the Sonic Wallpaper Project. When I showed it to people, I got pretty mixed reactions, ranging from "I have negative connotations with flock wallpaper and the 1970s" right through to "it's opulent; I'd like to have it in a boudoir".
The texture of the paper got people talking about the suggestive, sensory qualities of the paper, and reminded people of fuzzy felt. A couple of people also felt that it reminded them of an Indian restaurant. Too, there was some intrigue surrounding the mechanics of how a wallpaper like this is made. I wanted to build up a sonic palette which would reflect all of these ideas - warmth, opulence, sensuality, a lot of different tactile experiences - and so I recorded sounds which concern the manufacture of wallpaper at Cole & Sons Wallpaper Factory, and a selection of domestic and local sounds, including frying onions, popping mustard seeds, and the ambient sounds at my local Indian restaurant.
The most exciting things for me in the finished piece are the moments when certain ideas cross-pollinate. My favourite example of this is when the sizzling sound of mustard-seeds popping and pinging inside a saucepan correlate with a bit of interview where the idea of the gold in the wallpaper looking good against candlelight is being discussed. There is something in the combination of heat, shimmering, sparkling, sizzling, warmth, etc. which work well for me in that moment... the pinging sound of mustard seeds exploding inside a steel pan seem glittery to my ears, and this works with the idea of gilt or a gilded surface... what do you think?
When I started out on this project, I found myself thinking a lot about how design often involves "moodboards". Sonically speaking, this project has moodboards too, and as well as the sounds I've recorded for the project, each piece has a certain atmosphere associated with it, which I've tried to find the appropriate sounds to reflect. With BADDA 2301 there is something extremely exuberant and also a bit love/hate in the way people view the design; I wanted the sounds to be similarly attractive/repellent, and also very playful and fun. TheVelcro sound is I think the hardest of the different sounds to listen to, but hopefully other sounds like the wind in the chimney and the fire crackling at the end, are more attractive to listeners.
The original wallpaper design is very dense; there's a lot going on, and so the audio is correspondingly "busy". My hope is that between all the words and sounds, there are plenty of suggestions to help you imagine this wallpaper in different scenarios and spaces!
Sounds recorded: mustard seeds popping, onions frying, Velcro sticking and un-sticking, fuzzy felt, wallpaper printing machinery at Cole & Sons wallpaper factory, sounds at local Indian restaurant, fire in the living room fireplace
There is also an excerpt of this piece on Audioboo.