Mobiliário Sonoro

The project Paisagens Sonoras da Cidade (City Soundscapes) consists of an archive of soundscapes of the historical centre of Coimbra created by Jazz ao Centro Clube with the artistic direction of Luís Antero. This project explores the characterisation of space through sound, aiming to provide an unique identity to the city through the documentation of its different sounds. In the context of this project, we envisioned the Mobiliário Sonoro (Sounding Furniture) as a set of interactive pieces of furniture that allows the audience to discover and read the archived soundscapes. This way, the audience assumes an (inter)active role in the exhibition space.

Figure 1

Debug model of the cabinet.

The first prototype of the Mobiliário Sonoro (MS00) consists in a 16-drawer cabinet. Each drawer has a soundscape associated with it. The opening of each drawer activates the corresponding sound, which comes from inside the cabinet. The amplitude of the opening of each drawer determines the gain of the corresponding sound. One can listen to multiple sounds simultaneously by opening multiple drawers.

To measure the amplitude of each drawer in real-time, an array of infrared emitters and receivers connected to a microcontroller is used. Inside the cabinet, behind each drawer, there is an infrared emitter and receiver. The first emits infrared radiation that is reflected by the back of the drawer and picked up by the second. This way, the closer the back of the drawer is to the pair emitter-receiver, the more radiation is reflected and captured. The level of radiation captured is used to calculate how closed the drawer is. The microcontroller is used to collect and send the readings from each sensor to the computer that calculates the gain of each sound from each drawer and plays it back.

The MS00 was exhibited at the Museu Temporário de Memórias, Coimbra, from August to September 2016, where the audience was able to listen and mix the different sounds contained inside its drawers.

«Drawers are opened and sounds come out of the archive.»
J. Delacroix (Ricardo Kalash) in Público, 21/8/2016


More recently, we created a new iteration of the Mobiliário Sonoro (MS01) for the exhibition Dar a Ouvir | Paisagens Sonoras da Cidade that is taking place at Convento São Francisco, Coimbra, from 25 June to 24 September 2017.

Figure 2

Moments of a performance by Luís Antero during the opening day of the exhibition Dar a Ouvir — Paisagens Sonoras da Cidade at Convento São Francisco, 25/6/2017

In the MS01, photos produced by João Duarte, Marco Martins, and Luís Antero are assigned to the drawers. Each photo is geographically related to the soundscape of the corresponding drawer. As a result, the opening of each drawer determines the gain of the corresponding sound as well as the opacity of the related photo, which is projected on the wall next to it. As with the soundscapes, different photos can be overlapped and mixed up.

Future iterations of the project include the exploration of non-photorealistic rendering techiques, which are aimed at transforming the displayed images in a direct relation with the soundscapes that are being played.