Italian loudspeaker designer K-array helps to create audio sensation for Alter-Projects’ Metronome installation at London Design Biennale 2021.
Multi-disciplinary curatorial agency Alter-Projects participated in the 2021 London Design Biennale in June at London’s Somerset House, under the artistic direction of Es Devlin. Responding to the overarching theme of Resonance, Alter-Projects partnered with French design studio Servaire&Co and technology consultant 6Sides to present Metronome, an audio-olfactory installation which triggers a succession of sounds and scents through the oscillation of a large Metronome.
Inspired by the great master of French literature, Marcel Proust, and his novel In Search of Lost Time: In Swann’s Way, which centres its narrative on the theme of involuntary memory, Metronome is an altar to the senses, aiming to create a time bubble for visitors to reconnect with themselves and deep-seeded memory. The multi-sensory experience aims to trigger a combination of visual, olfactory and sound emotions and plunge spectators into a meditative internal journey.
“The combined sensory experience is designed to revive involuntary cognitive memories in order to instil inner peace and sooth the senses,” said Anne-Laure Pingreoun, exhibit curator and founder of Alter-Projects. “It’s the perfect antidote to a stressful world, and examines how the evolving scent and soundscape enables visitors to reconnect with emotions, bridging the gap between space and memory.”
The physical Metronome, in the shape of the infinity symbol, is centred in the space on a mirrored riser. As the pendulum slowly oscillates, the Metronome rotates imperceptibly and is surrounded by sound emanating from the corners of the room, forming a soundscape composed of overarching layers that are generated algorithmically to oscillate at precise frequencies that echo the movement of the Metronome.
Ticking sounds – both literal and abstract – further connect spectators to the passing of time. Conceived by wellness and sustainability consultant Steve Lastro of technology consultancy firm 6Sides, the sounds are enabled by the cutting-edge, discreet audio system Azimut from K-array, which emits a mesmerising sound developed by Moodsonic linked to the repetitive movement of the Metronome.
“I was looking to create something unique and special with sound that could respond to LDB’s theme on Resonance,” explained Lastro. “We wanted to create a seamless experience where the sensory modalities all had a purpose, and so we sought an audio solution that was not only visually discreet but that could also produce the sound levels needed to awaken a true sensorial experience, creating the ideal acoustic and immersive environment around the Metronome.”
Azimut’s minimalist visual footprint enabled Lastro to focus visitor’s attention on the sound rather than awareness of the origin of the sound. “Being a truly invisible profile, this was key. We wanted the Metronome to remain the only focal point, allowing the spectators to immersive themselves in the sound without noticing the speakers. We observed people walking around the room looking up at the ceiling and the Metronome trying to figure out where the sound was actually coming from – it was truly impressive!”
The captivating sound is delivered by six K-array Lyzard-KZ14 miniature line arrays, spaced around the periphery of the room at head height and equidistant from the central Metronome. The wide horizontal, and narrow vertical, coverage from the speakers ensures that visitors are always fully enveloped in the soundfield.
Milled from a solid bar of aluminium, the Lyzard’s décor-matched enclosure houses four 0.5” drive units to provide crystal clear audio, and blends discreetly into the surroundings, measuring only 10cm tall. “In terms of sound, the diminutive size of the K-array speakers was key for us because we didn’t want anything obstructing or distracting – we didn’t want the viewer’s eye wandering into too-familiar territory; we wanted the whole thing to be about being focused on the Metronome,” agreed Pingreoun.
“Moodsonic was super interesting because we wanted a soundscape that wasn’t too intrusive, and to resonate with the Metronome. It’s a 30-minute long soundscape that includes ASMR (auto sensory meridian response) tingles such as water droplets, woody sounds, and ticking sounds that ground you and resonate with the piece.
“The scents inside the capsule are a new patented technology that release fragrance only when the capsule is in motion, and work in harmony with the soundscape. The scent is not intended to be anything specific; rather to just evoke memories and recollections. The sound is inspired by the Metronome, the scent is inspired by the sound, and the sound is triggered by the Metronome itself – so everything is in harmony.”
Blending the sensory elements together into one unified experience was a challenge that the team behind Metronome feel has been well accomplished. “Our aim was to create a multi-sensorial installation where sound played a vital role in helping to trigger deep emotional memories and to take spectators on a meditative journey,” said Lastro. “There’s no doubt that K-array Azimut was the only audio system that could deliver what we wanted – not just as an impressive ultra-compact and discreet speaker – but that could also produce such amazing sound quality that would fully immerse and captivate spectators – and it has far exceeded our expectations.”