The Silent sound sculpture project was initiated by Ann Rosén in 2001.
Silent Sound Sculpture is an artist-driven interdisciplinary research project.

The project is a collaboration between artists, scientists, researchers and architects where the process in itself is both a part of the research and the artistic contents.

The Silent Sound Sculpture project is located at the Centre for user oriented IT-design wich is a part of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and is carried out in collaboration with the Blekinge Institute of Technology.

The Silent Sound Sculpture project takes its starting point in an artistic problem definition and the project goal is to produce a work of art and at the same time create a meeting between art, science and technical development.

The artistic idea has several functions, as well as setting the targets for research and technical development; it is also a tool for collaboration between art and science.
A long-term goal for the project is to assist the establishment of what perhaps could be called artist-driven research.

The artistic idea is to create a silent sound sculpture in a noisy public environment.
Is it possible to express and perceive subtle feelings in a public space such as an underground station using sound as the only material?
The idea is to carve out silent caves in the existing sound environment. This can theoretically be done by using anti-sound (phase inverted sound) that counteracts the existing sound, thereby creating silence. The aim is to clearly define a 3-dimensional space, where the contrast between the silent zone and the surrounding sound environment is so striking that you can almost touch the surface of the zone.

This project seeks to artistically interpret, animate and shape silence through collaborative work where the artistic idea both sets the goals for the research and functions as a tool for the collaborative process.

In order to realise this project, the technique of active noise control where you use phase-inverted sound to cancel out the unwanted sounds needs to be further developed and this requires quite a lot of research.
An important issue is how well one can define the border between the silent zone (sculpture) and the surrounding sound environment?

The realisation of the Silent Sound Sculpture requires collaboration between several competence areas: active sound control, user-oriented design, sound design, architecture and art.
The artistic idea is what the people in the project gather around, the idea creates prerequisites so that people from different areas of research can formulate their own goals, defined by their own perspectives.


It raises many questions when art and science perspectives meet:
What are the differences and similarities in the respective ways of thinking, methods and how results are evaluated and presented?
Will it be possible to regard the outcome of the project as a piece of art? Will this project provide a good environment for artistic and scientific work?
An artist working together with other competence areas will have to face many difficulties and challenges:
How will the artistic idea be affected?
Conversely, what will happen with the technical innovation processes and research when scientists work together with an artist?
Finally, the collaboration process, what form will it take, what needs to bee developed to make it possible for so different disciplines to meet?
These questions are fundamental issues for the project.

To try to answer some of these questions we performed a one-month practical pre-study during 2003.
The participants were Ann Rosén, artist and project manager, Sven Johansson, researcher in signal processing, Sten-Olof Hellström, composer and researcher, and Peter Santesson, architect.

The purpose of this pre-study was to see how far we could get with existing technology and to develop language, technology and art based on the our knowledge and experience. We limited the task to creating and defining a silent zone and exploring the artistic possibilities

During the pre-study we made two working prototypes in a lab environment. Both prototypes consisted of a group of 4-6 speakers close to each other, hanging from the ceiling. Beneath the speakers there was a number of microphones used to control the anti-sound. Both prototypes created a silent zone by using active noise control. In order to create a realistic and difficult noise source we used 2-4 speakers as far apart from each other and the “to be” silent zone as possible.

In the first prototype we adapted an existing technique used in aeroplanes to create a silent zone below the speakers next to the microphones. The prototype was adjusted in order to make the silent zone as distinct as possible and was then evaluated from an artistic perspective. As a noise source we used sound recorded in the cabin of a propeller aeroplane.

The sound levels in the prototype are shown in these images.
The image to the left shows a visualisation of the sound level when the system is inactive and the image to the right when the system is active. The dark blue in the center shows the silent zone.

The next step was to make a prototype adapted to, from the artistic point of view, more realistic prerequisites. We searched for a public place, preferably a tunnel, that had one distinct low frequency noise source. We found a passageway at Fridhemsplan underground station with escalators at one end providing the right kind of noise.
We recorded the escalators and in the lab we analysed the sound and used it as a noise source. This prototype had to be adjusted manually parameter by parameter because we wanted to push the technology to its limits. We were able to move the zone and also to some extent shape the zone but with the drawback that the boundaries of the zone where slightly less distinct.

The artistic consequence of choosing an underground passageway instead of an underground platform, which was the original idea, was that instead of a cylindrical silent zone, big enough to fit a person, we will now try to create a rectangular silent zone that will be a slice or a segment of the passageway.

In this pre-study the project group has tested existing technology according to the artistic intentions. Both the technology and the artistic expression has been adopted and developed in close collaboration within the group across the different disciplines.
With the help of different optimising methods for placing speakers and microphones and further development of the technique and technology we believe it is possible to reach our goal and create a silent sound sculpture in a public space, such as an underground passageway. We think it is possible for people walking in the passageway to experience a true moment of silence as they walk through the zone.
This pre-study has shown that the vision and work method, where the artistic idea is the core that the project group gathers around, works!

The project group consists of
Ann Rosén, artist and project manager
Yngve Sundblad, professor and director of CID
Sten-Olof Hellström, composer and researcher, CID
Ann Lantz, assistant professor, CID
Sven Johansson, senior researcher
Peter Santesson, architect
The Silent Sound Sculpture project is located at the Centre for user oriented IT-design wich is a part of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and is carried out in collaboration with the Blekinge Institute of Technology.

Supported by
Konstnärsnämnden. Sveriges Bildkonstnärsfond
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Stiftelsen framtidens kultur


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CID – Centrum för användarorienterad It-design, NADA, KTH | Lindstedtsvägen 5, pl 6, 100 44 Stockholm
Kontakt: Ann Rosén,

Uppdaterad 2004-03-30

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