I can hear for miles

Artist/designer Dominic Wilcox and creative technologist James Rutherford have created a pair of ‘Binaudios’, which allow the user to hear sounds from miles away.

Kathy Wilcox (Dominic's mum) listens to the sounds of the train station
Kathy Wilcox (Dominic’s mum) listens to the sounds of the train station

The Binaudios have been installed at Sage Gateshead, and can be pointed to more than 50 locations seen outside the gallery windows, to hear their sounds.

When the Binaudios are pointed at football stadium St James Park, the listener hears sounds of a crowd chanting. Turning to the Tyne Bridge reveals King George V’s speech when the bridge was opened in 1928.

Video:

Binaudios

Other sounds include skateboarders and tennis players at the park, cows eating grass on the Town Moor and people playing pool in the Tanner’s Arms pub.

As the Binaudios are rotated the stereo sounds move from one ear to the other, to create a real feeling of listening to the city across the river.

Testing the Binaudios
Testing the Binaudios

A map of the sounds is printed on the gallery floor

Wilcox and Rutherford travelled through the city pre-recording sounds to be used in the installation.

Recording cows on the Town Moor for use in the project
Recording cows on the Town Moor for use in the project

The Binaudios use a hidden Raspberry Pi computer unit and rotating ‘listening cones’ to create a soundscape of changing noises, altered by the user moving the Binaudios around.

Wilcox says, ‘I live in London but am originally from the North East, and James lives in Newcastle itself.

Binaudios waiting to be used

Source: Karolina Maciagowska

Binaudios waiting to be used

‘The venue we had been given is used for music and sound performances, so we wanted to create something involving audio. The view across the river is spectacular and the idea for these Binaudios emerged.

‘The process of collaboration was quite straightforward; I had responsibility for the concept based on early discussions and the design of the Binaudios themselves and James created the “magic” element in the form of the hidden technology.

An early sketch of the Binaudios by Dominic Wilcox
An early sketch of the Binaudios by Dominic Wilcox

‘What’s nice about this project is that we can drop these Binaudios onto any tall building or place with a view and collect new sounds.’

Wilcox and Rutherford were commissioned by Suzy O’Hara as part of the Thinking Digital Arts conference, held earlier this month.

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