Cave of Sounds

Cave of Sounds invites audiences to create music together by interacting with a unique ensemble of bespoke digital instruments.

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 transforms audiences into musicians, movements into sounds, and a space into a musical playground. The award-winning artwork was created in 2013 by Tim Murray-Browne and other artists from Music Hackspace. In 2018, a new version has launched for international touring.

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. You need no musical experience 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.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. The Animal Kingdom, a digital musical instrument played by casting shadows with your hands. Children and adults playing while exhibited at 90dB Festival in Rome as part of the Sonic Arts Award, Sep 2014.
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

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.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. Wind, a body-controlled musical instrument played through physical movement. Installed at the Barbican in Aug 2013 as part of Hack the Barbican.

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.

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

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 instruments were developed over ten months, leading to the first incarnation of Cave of Sounds. We toured this version across London in late 2013, exhibiting at The Barbican, The Victoria & Albert Museum and Waterman’s Arts Centre. We were awarded the Sonic Arts Award in 2014 and invited to 90dB, a sound art festival in Rome, and subsequently to the Waterloo Innovation Summit in Canada. Here, we were invited to extend our stay by two days to exhibit at a children’s museum. We’ve since also exhibited Cave of Sounds at an Adidas launch at London’s Village Underground.

Through these exhibitions we’ve seen a hugely diverse audience of over 5000 people exposed to the project, and been overwhelmed by the enjoyment we’ve seen in participants experiencing it. We’ve been continually surprised by the ways in which people interact with the instruments, as well as by the varied musical output that emerges. Often we’ll see coordinated jams organically develop, with communication between the participants and the emergence of musical roles. Something we’ve been particularly happy to see is how participants who don’t know each other will connect through interacting with Cave of Sounds – almost reenacting the very prehistoric collective music making practices that inspired the project.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. Lightefface, a digital musical instrument played by audience members by shining lights, created by Kacper Ziemianin. Installed at the Barbican in Aug 2013 as part of Hack the Barbican.

2018 Production

Following funding from Arts Council England, we updated Cave of Sounds into a touring work for galleries, museums, festivals and events.

Visually, the new version has been completely redesigned in collaboration with set designers Sets Appeal. Embedded into the new build, arrays of addressable LEDs shine upwards visualising the activity of the participants to completely transform the space it inhabits.

However, much of the development has been on refining the internals, rewriting code and swapping in more robust hardware, allowing the installation to run reliably for long shows with low maintenance. We’ve kept the sounds and play mechanics of the original instruments intact.

The 2018 Cave of Sounds production can be installed for both extended and short periods of time, from three hours to three months. Find our contact details below for booking enquiries.

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

Exhibition History

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

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
2018 version: 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
2018 version: 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
2018 version: 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
2018 version: 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.

Cave of Sounds (2018) Additional Production Team

The 2018 version of Cave of Sounds was created by the original artists working together with:

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.

Our photographer for sharings and previews of the 2018 version was Suzie Corker. Other photographs are by 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 and Andrew Robertson.

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.

Join Tim Murray-Browne’s newsletter to hear about new dates as they’re announced!