Cave of Sounds

Cave of Sounds connects music’s prehistoric origins with the technological radicalism of the music hacker scene. Eight bespoke instruments are exhibited in a circle. They are there to be played by the audience in an unmediated collaborative exploration.

Cave of Sounds is one of the most successful examples of an interactive installation I’ve ever seen. Its elegant simplicity and expert execution drew me to it: this work is inclusive and fun, and most of all sounds great. ”

Cave of Sounds invites audiences to be active explorers within a musical ensemble.

The award-winning project began in 2012 when, as composer in residence at Music Hackspace, Tim Murray-Browne announced an open call to join an experimental collective of musicians. Each would each create an instrument encapsulating their individual identities and musical practice.

The eight instruments are arranged in a circle facing inwards. Each can be approached and played by audience members and any number can be played together. They are all designed to be played with no prior experience. Diverse methods and sounds emerge, with an equitable experience for participants that treats those with no musical experience the same as it treats those who are musically adept.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. Audiences playing with the interactive sound installation of digital musical instruments using movement, shadow, light and touch at 90dB Festival of the Sonic Arts Award, Rome, Sep 2014.

Inspiration here comes from prehistoric musical practices, drawing on collective music making experiences using primitive and intuitive instruments.

Cave of Sounds creates an experience of curiosity, play and energy. It aims to capture the excitement and energy we imagine of prehistoric musical rituals around a fire, an active collaboration between people exploring new social practices and technologies of self-expression.

This inspiration is in contrast to a highly technical realisation of the concept. Each of these electronic instruments, which you can play with movement, light, shadow and touch, feeds into a centralised computer that keeps everything in key and on beat. No musical experience is needed to participate, which allows for an open flow of ideas and play without root in dogmatic modes of musical practice.

In the centre, a glowing hub emits flickers of dancing lights in response to the musical activity, illustrating connections between the instruments and how participants can interact with each other through sound. Inspired by drumming circles and other non-hierarchical musical practices, this layout aims to encourage participants to look up beyond their own instrument and connect with those around them.

A child participates with Cave of Sounds, creating music by shining a light. Photo by Suzi Corker taken at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018
The Cave of Sounds, interactive sound installation by Tim Murray-Browne and members of the Music Hackspace. View of the computer interface of Sonicsphere, a handheld musical instrument played through physical movement created by Panagiotis Tigas

Participants collaborate to create music through bespoke instruments that use light, movement and touch, at the preview of Cave of Sounds at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018. Photo: Suzi Corker

Some musicologists such as Christopher Small have argued that any musical ritual, from an orchestral recital to an illegal rave, serves to celebrate or reinforce a particular model of how society is sociopolitically organised. In this light, we challenge the specialisation of creative expression within contemporary society, and, for many, the relegation of artistic experience to passive consumption.

The circular arrangement of the instruments facing inwards is inspired by prehistoric stone circles. It encourages collective play both between and for participants, rather than to an audience of spectators. We’re aiming to loosen preconceptions that participants have about performance, composition, collaboration and improvisation.

Through this, we want Cave of Sounds to embody the human capacity for a social organisation that emerges organically and without hierarchy. Through collective action, empowered by accessible technology, the work is a flagbearer for the maker movement, grassroots activism and a vision that empowers individual agency in a post-industrial world.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. Audiences and children playing with the interactive sound installation of digital musical instruments using movement, shadow, light and touch at 90dB Festival of the Sonic Arts Award, Rome, Sep 2014.

Participants create music together with Lightefface, a Cave of Sounds instrument played by shining lights onto a bed of sensors. Prototype exhibition at Village Underground, London, 2016. Photo: Tim Murray-Browne
The Joker: a Cave of Sounds instrument playable only by wearing a mask. Shown at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018. Photo: Suzi Corker

The Instruments

Cave of Sounds began in November 2012 at London’s Music Hackspace as part of Tim Murray-Browne’s Embedded artistic residency with Sound and Music. The eight artists, led by Tim, each developed a musical instrument for what was, at the time, an imagined eight piece ensemble.

Sonicsphere by Panagiotis Tigas

A palm-sized sphere with an embedded wireless gyroscope that you can use to warp and charter spaces of heavy digital timbres.

Joker by Wallace Hobbes

A punchy drum kit you play by wearing a mask and tapping your fingers onto conductive tape.

The Animal Kingdom by Daniel Lopez

A world of sounds you awaken and shepherd by casting hand shadows in the shape of animals onto a table top, which are read and interpreted by an interior camera.

Generative Net Sampler by Tadeo Sendon

Experimental audio samples, created from digital field recordings of the internet, are triggered as you move through invisible cylindrical trigger zones, detected using a 3D camera.

Lightefface by Kacper Ziemianin

A deep drone you control by shining lamps over 24 light sensors, each of which modulates the intensity of a different harmonic of a fundamental frequency.

Campanology by Dom Aversano

Generative rhythms derived through the mathematics of church bell ringing patterns, controlled through free movement of your hands using a 3D camera.

Mini-Theremin by Sus Garcia

Using hand gestures, you control a DIY theremin running through a pitch-tracker, turning it into a controller to mangle noise synthesis.

Wind by Tim Murray-Browne

A breathy flute sound you play by moving your hands around your body through a grid of harmonious notes, sensed using a 3D camera.

Visitors interact with each instrument in a radically different way, embodying the dynamic and creative hacker scene that this piece of work emerged from.

They are designed with simple and primal input methods in mind, much like the prehistoric music makers that inspired this project, yet are capable of producing diverse and complex sounds. The musical possibilities become even greater when played together.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. Audiences playing with the prototype installation of digital musical instruments using shadows at 90dB Festival of the Sonic Arts Award, Rome

A child participant creates music by casting shadows with her hands using the Cave of Sounds instrument The Animal Kingdom, at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018. Photo: Suzi Corker

Origins

Cave of Sounds began in 2012 when Tim Murray-Browne, composer in residence at Music Hackspace, announced an open call to the community to join an experimental collective of musicians. Each would create an instrument that encapsulates their own identity and musical practice.

We adopted an experimental process of group improvisation, akin to a jam session stretched over many years. Each creating one instrument, we met regularly to share ideas, experiment, listen and discover what themes and ideas resonated. This process allowed musical roles to emerge organically without hierarchy or an authoritative vision.

Cave of Sounds artists meet to create their instruments. Photo: Tim Murray-Browne
Early sketch by Tim Murray-Browne of the imagined Cave of Sounds installation of a musical ensemble performed by its audience

Over the following five years, the ensemble evolved as we exhibited these evolving prototypes to international audiences and spaces, including the Barbican and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, 90dB Sonic Arts Festival in Rome, an Adidas shoe launch at Village Underground, London. We exhibited to entrpreneurs and policy makers at the Waterloo Innovation in Canada, and were subsequently invited to extend our stay to exhibit at a children’s museum.

These diverse audiences of over 5000 people created an ongoing dialogue between audience, artists and environment, allowing us to understand and evolve the work along the way. We’ve been continually surprised by the ways in which people interact with the instruments, as well as the variety of musical outputs. Often we’ll see spontaneous jams develop and the natural emergence of musical roles. Participants who don’t know each other will connect through interacting with Cave of Sounds – echoing the prehistoric collective music making practices that inspired the project.

In 2018, with funding from Arts Council England, we completed the project into a tourable installation format, recoding and re-engineering the technology, and building a bespoke sculptural form, all while retaining the musical experience that we had developed. We previewed this at Somerset House Studios with Music Hackspace on 11 January 2018.

Participants collaborate to create music through bespoke instruments that use light, movement and touch, at the preview of Cave of Sounds at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018. Photo: Suzi Corker

An adult and child participant create music together by casting shadows at Cave of Sounds, Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios. Photo: Suzi Corker

Press

Music ‘hackers’ unleash new generation of cool and bizarre instruments
Kieron Monks, CNN
Those lucky enough to get their hands on the Sonicsphere or Joker may not realize they’re tapping into the same urges as our cave-dwelling ancestors, but that’s the beauty of Murray-Browne’s cave – one can imagine a bone xylophone or animal hide drum once elicited the same kind of wonder.”
John Dugan, VICE Creators
a hypnotising soundscape that echoed throughout the space from all angles
Jon Tebble, Arts Award Voice

Audience Feedback

This installation is fantastic. I loved the hand shadows instrument. I’d love to have one at home (I would probably end up not doing anything else, ever). I like how you can make each animal sound and spooky noises, so you can easily imagine a narrative while playing. Also liked the flute instrument, because it was easy to relate to … I wish I had more time to play it.
Ioa, Audience member at Barbican, Aug 2013
Fantastic to stumble across this on our way to the movie. Keep up the great interactive work & thanks Barbican for hosting such interesting and involving content!
Simon, Audience member at Barbican, Aug 2013
Participants collaborate to create music through bespoke instruments that use light, movement and touch, at the preview of Cave of Sounds at Music Hackspace, Somerset House Studios, Jan 2018. Photo: Suzi Corker

Upcoming Exhibitions

25-29 Apr 2018
Athens Science Festival
Greece

Exhibitions

8 Sep 2016
Village Underground
London
17-20 Sep 2015
Waterloo Innovation Summit
Canada
11-14 Sep 2014
90dB Festival Internazionale Arti Sonore
Rome
1-3 Nov 2013
Watermans Arts Centre
London
21 Sep 2013
Victoria and Albert Museum
London
19-26 Aug 2013
Barbican
London
18-19 May 2013
Music Tech Fest
London

Cave of Sounds can be shown for both extended and short periods of time, from three hours to three months. Find our contact details below for booking enquiries.

Team

Cave of Sounds Artists

Cave of Sounds is a collaboration between eight artists from Music Hackspace, led by Tim Murray-Browne during his time there as Composer in Residence.

Tim Murray-Browne, creator of Wind
Instrument: Wind
Director
Tim Murray-Browne is an artist and creative coder based in London. As artist in residence with the Music Hackspace, he has led Cave of Sounds project from conception to completion.
Dom Aversano, creator of Campanology
Instrument: Campanology
Dom Aversano is a handpan player and composer. His music experiments with the rhythmic algorithms of South Indian classical music, and exploring it in relation to geometry and western harmony.
Sus Garcia, creator of Mini-theremin
Instrument: Mini-theremin
Susanna Garcia and Borja Alexandre create together since 2008. They started their collaboration within the artist’s group Sonom, developing installations, AV performances, music and video works. In 2012 they co-founded Mind the Film, bringing together their passion for filmmaking and the arts.
Wallace Hobbes, creator of Joker
Wallace Hobbes
Instrument: Joker
Wallace Hobbes is an Embedded Software engineer and music enthusiast from France who designs ludic and novel approaches to interact with machines with the final goal of exploring the meanings of communication.
Daniel Lopez, creator of The Animal Kingdom
Daniel Lopez
Instrument: The Animal Kingdom
Ongoing production: Coder
Daniel Lopez is a programmer from London, UK with a longtime interest in music, games and the interplay between them.
Tadeo Sendon, creator of Generative Net Sampler
Tadeo Sendon
Instrument: Generative Net Sampler
Ongoing production: Creative Consultant
Tadeo Sendon‘s work attempts to explore the practical crossroad between culture and the contemporary digital based environments. Through research based projects, his interest is to understand and capture modern technology with sonic and concept art finalisations.
Panagiotis Tigas, creator of Sonicsphere
Instrument: Sonicsphere
Panagiotis Tigas is a computer scientist obsessed with music, arts and the universe.
Kacper Ziemianin, creator of Lightefface
Instrument: Lightefface
Ongoing production: Electronics
Kacper Ziemianin explores various aspects of sound art including: instrument building, interactivity, interface design, live electronics improvisation, music production, radio production, audio-visual installations, etc. By these means he tries to find his own, individual style of artistic expression.

Additional Production Team

As the project developed, the production team of the original artists was expanded to include:

Terry Tyldesley - Producer on Cave of Sounds (2018) (Photo: Suzi Corker)
Producer
Terry Tyldesley co-founded Kitmonsters and is a producer, musician and film-maker. She produced and curated Music Tech Fest in Berlin, and at FutureFest managed interactive installation Collective Reality for body>data>space. Her music has been featured on BBC Radio, and she has performed at the National Portrait Gallery and music festivals.
Anastasia Alekseeva - Production Assistant on Cave of Sounds (2018) (Photo: Tim Murray-Browne)
Anastasia Alekseeva
Production Assistant
Anastasia Alekseeva studies Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Her work stems from bizarre narratives and photography, erratically growing into moving image and generative sound.
Harry Murdoch - Production assistant on Cave of Sounds (2018) (Photo: Suzi Corker)
Harry Murdoch
Production Assistant
South London DJ Harry Murdoch can usually be found playing a mix of techno, house, soul, disco, jazz, experimental and more. He produces under his own name and pops up regularly playing sets around London. Harry has a few jobs, one of which involves work at a “city farm in South London, taking animals to schools to engage young Londoners with non-humans.”
Hela Dondertman from Sets Appeal - set designers on Cave of Sounds (2018) (Photo: Suzi Corker)
Set Designer
Sets Appeal
Hela Dondertman is a part of Sets Appeal, a London based company specialising in art direction, set design and prop making. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2008, they have worked with a diverse range of clients on projects such as music videos, commercials, films, editorial shoots, live events and window displays.
Sophie Jacobs from Sets Appeal - set designers on Cave of Sounds (2018) (Photo: Suzi Corker)
Set Designer
Sets Appeal
Sophie Jacobson is a part of Sets Appeal, a London based company specialising in art direction, set design and prop making. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2008, they have worked with a diverse range of clients on projects such as music videos, commercials, films, editorial shoots, live events and window displays.
Bridget Murton from Sets Appeal - set designers on Cave of Sounds (2018)
Set Designer
Sets Appeal
Bridget Murton is a part of Sets Appeal, a London based company specialising in art direction, set design and prop making. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2008, they have worked with a diverse range of clients on projects such as music videos, commercials, films, editorial shoots, live events and window displays.

Exhibition Team

All of the above have been supported in exhibiting Cave of Sounds by Jan Lee, Chrisanthi Livadiotis, Ben Koppelman, Kevin Blankenship, Mim Briggs, Javier Carles, Joshua Gardner, Georgia Grant, Ting-an Lin, Lia Mice, Sabrina Recoules, Florian Stagliano, Kasia Uscinska.

Photography is by Suzi Corker, Lucia Molina Pflaum and members of the Cave of Sounds team.

Partner Organisations

The Music Hackspace is a hub and focal point in London for those interested in subverting technology to create music. Established in 2011 as an offshoot of the London Hackspace, the group meet weekly to present projects, host performances of experimental music and exchange ideas and skills.

Sound and Music’s vision is to create a world where new music and sound prospers, transforming lives, challenging expectations and celebrating the work of its creators. Our work includes composer and artist support and development, partnerships with a range of organisations, live events and audience development, touring, information and advice, network building, and education. We champion new music and the work of British composers and artists, and seek to ensure that they are at the heart of cultural life and enjoyed by many.

Acknowledgements

Cave of Sounds was created through Sound and Music’s Embedded Composer in Residence programme with the Music Hackspace.

Sound and Music’s Embedded programme is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation with support from Arts Council England.

The residency was mentored by Duncan Chapman and Atau Tanaka. Special thanks for support to Hannah Bujic and Nick Sherrard from Sound and Music, Jean-Baptiste Thiebaut and Martin Klang from the Music Hackspace, The Centre for Creative Collaboration, Troyganic and the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London for providing creative working space, Mind The Film for producing the video of our work above, as well as Jenny Attwater and the many who provided insightful feedback on early prototypes of the work. Thanks also for help from Arthur Carabott, Sara, Tatjana, Juan, Andrew Robertson and Natalia Szcz.

Future developments were realised using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, in partnership with Music Hackspace and with support from Somerset House Studios.

This website was created using the Movement Alphabet theme created by Daniel Lopez and Tim Murray-Browne.

Contact

For booking enquiries, please email Tim Murray-Browne on caveofsounds {_art_} timmb {_dort_} com.

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