Aural Tools #1 – Trifoglio, holistic listening experience


As with many of our consumer technologies, the historical trajectory of sound recording has been one of progressive banalisation. If the first people to listen to recorded music in the late 19th century thought they were experiencing a form of magic, and the esoterics of audiophile culture boomed with the cult of the hi-fi in the 60s and 70s, today it is common to listen to music in streaming directly from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, often with a reproduction quality inferior to what the generation of our great-grandparents would listen to on a gramophone. Furthermore with streaming services music records are becoming obsolete in many contexts. It is interesting then to note how certain artists and music publishers respond to these developments by proposing alternatives. Aural Tools is an edition of objects offered as an alternative to the record as a physical carrier of a musical idea. The project is curated by Attila Faravelli, who is also the author of the first object of the series. His Trifoglio is an especially intriguing, low cost audio player, assembled by hand with simple parts, that provides a unique listening experience. Trifoglio is based on an unusual mid/side speaker configuration, which applies to sound diffusion a technique commonly employed for stereo microphone placement. Two small 0.5 watt speaker cones are placed at 90 degrees to each other within a folded cardboard construction which replaces the speaker cabinet and also functions as a sort of parabolic reflector, directing the sound towards the listener. Holding Trifoglio with two hands directly in front of the head, just as one would hold a book, envelops the listener in a sonic hologram, giving an impression similar to listening with headphones but with the addition that tactile vibrations are conveyed through the hands. Although the object is intended for one single listener, the audio player also interacts with local room acoustics and does not isolate the listener from the environment, as headphones do, and it engages in an interesting way with the body, giving the listener the possibility to modulate the sound field by changing the position or orientation of the player. Using components usually found in cheap, low fidelity media players, Trifoglio effectively delivers a holistic listening experience that in terms of spatial imaging goes beyond what high-end speakers are capable of achieving. Trifoglio is intended specifically to reproduce a growing set of audio tracks produced especially for it that can be downloaded from the website of Aural Tools. Contributors so far have included Enrico Malatesta, Nicola Ratti, Alessandro Bosetti, Giovanni Lami, Massimiliano Viel, Giuseppe Ielasi and others. Attila Faravelli regularly invites artists to contribute material to the collection of tracks that can be played on Trifoglio, making it an open collaborative project.