Volumes For Sound – Nonlinear Acoustic Design


Acoustic design is an empirical business, but regardless of its experimental foundation, concepts related to high-fidelity have to a large extent kept applied acoustics in a subservient role, limiting the scope of the discipline to solving problems originating within other fields. Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson appropriate the imagery and practices of acoustic design with a different mindset. In their ongoing project entitled Volumes for Sound they stage a series of three-dimensional constructions made out of medium-density fiberboard that combine references to modernism with a DIY aesthetic. In Volumes For Sound, various arrangements of geometrical shapes are assembled by the Brooklyn-based duo in the form of cabinets that are as imaginative as they are austere-looking. The objects contain nothing but air, their purpose being to articulate vibratory phenomena. If placed in a musical instrument museum, these resonant chambers would stand out for their lack of curves. A set of modernist ideals conflating music, architecture and design, here find their incarnation in forms that could be recognized as organ pipes, futuristic maquettes for a film set, or the interior of a BBC studio. However the notion that form follows function is confounded by an apparent lack of the former. While practical constraints may have limited the playfulness of acoustic designers, Dubbin and Davidson are indicating a path to explore this field in an open-ended fashion, with simple meanings that are accessible to anyone. For those who fantasize about big-budget architectural projects that develop buildings with extravagant acoustic qualities, Volumes For Sound can perhaps have value as a sobering and inspiring example. Matteo Marangoni