The Cave of Sounds

The Cave of Sounds is an award-winning artwork that invites audiences to create music together by interacting with a unique ensemble of bespoke digital instruments.

“ The 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. ”

Tactile, collaborative, stimulating the senses, and proven to delight all ages, The Cave of Sounds transforms audiences into musicians, movements into sounds, and a space into a musical playground.

Any number of the instruments can be played in unison, and each can be approached and played by audience members. They are all designed to be played with no prior experience. That’s a key component here. These instruments don’t have an established practice and as such, as a participant, you can approach them with very little expectation of how they can or should be played. 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.

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. As such, 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.

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

In the centre of the circle, a visualisation drawing connections between instruments currently being played is projected onto the surface, communicating how the participants can interact with each other through sound. It is also designed to encourage participants to look up, away from their own instrument station and become aware of those around them.

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 circular arrangement of the instruments, which mimics prehistoric stone circles, encourages collective play both between and for participants, rather than to a passive audience. Through this, we aim to deconstruct any conceptions of performance, composition, collaboration and improvisation that participants may have – and remake these with broader understandings about how these ideas and concepts relate to each other and can be done.

The 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.

The Cave of Sounds by Tim Murray-Browne and members of Music Hackspace. The installation at the Barbican in Aug 2013

The Instruments

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 awakened and shepherded 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 by movement into 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 the 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

You control a breathy flute 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 possibilities are even greater when these instruments are played together, with exponentially more sonic possibilities added as another instrument begins to be played.

The instruments were developed over ten months, leading to the first incarnation of The 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 The 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 The Cave of Sounds – almost reenacting the very prehistoric collective music making practices that inspired the project.

Following funding from Arts Council England, The Cave of Sounds has now been updated to create a touring work for galleries, museums and events, bringing us the capacity to enthrall and excite larger audiences around the world. A new visual design brings greater impact, and new physical designs and software tweak the experience to make it even more intuitive and inviting. It can be installed for both extended and short periods of time, from three hours to three months.

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.

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

Audience feedback from interactive installation The Cave of Sounds while installed at 90dB Festival in Rome as part of the Sonic Arts Award, Sep 2014.

Upcoming Exhibitions

27 Jan – 12 May 2018
Salisbury Museum
Salisbury, UK

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Past Exhibitions

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

The 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
1
Dom Aversano, creator of Campanology
2
Sus Garcia, creator of Mini-theremin
3
Wallace Hobbes, creator of Joker
4
Daniel Lopez, creator of The Animal Kingdom
5
Tadeo Sendon, creator of Generative Net Sampler
6
Panagiotis Tigas, creator of Sonicsphere
7
Kacper Ziemianin, creator of Lightefface
8
1
Tim Murray-Browne
Instrument: Wind
2
Dom Aversano
Instrument: Campanology
3
Sus Garcia
Instrument: Mini-theremin
4
Wallace Hobbes
Instrument: Joker
5
Daniel Lopez
Instrument: The Animal Kingdom
6
Tadeo Sendon
Instrument: Generative Net Sampler
7
Panagiotis Tigas
Instrument: Sonicsphere
8
Kacper Ziemianin
Instrument: Lightefface

Tim Murray-Browne is an artist and creative coder based in London. As artist in residence with the Music Hackspace, he has led The Cave of Sounds project from conception to completion.

Dom Aversano is a musician and composer. He has played drum kit in many jazz groups over the last ten years as well as classical piano and is interested in South Indian Carnatic Music, Church Bell Ringing, and the American Theorist Joseph Schillinger.

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 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 is a programmer from London, UK with a longtime interest in music, games and the interplay between them.

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 is a computer scientist obsessed with music, arts and the universe.

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.

And additionally on our production team:

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.

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

The 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.

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.