8 March 2021
by Alina Dheere Babaletsos
I have always been interested in unseen processes. I think the fascination and curiosity that surround the way things work is the fact that, when they seem out of sight, anything is possible. It is the moment before logic and science step in - that beautiful moment when imagination can run wild without constraints and limitations. There is space for fiction, and by definition, a sense of playfulness. And who doesn’t like to play?
I suspect that is the initial reason why I am fascinated by unseen processes. Then, of course, there is the challenge and the excitement of making the invisible visible, and perhaps the ability to map what cannot be seen. For example, chemical reactions often occur out of sight: the migration of a cancer cell, the motions of molecular catalysts, the transient contacts of proteins, and the reordering of lipids are but a few examples. In biology, photosynthesis occurs out of sight: plants and other organisms transform light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel their activities. In physics, sound is an unseen type of energy, a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.
REFLECTIONS ON SOUND: 20 Hz
Sound can be understood as something unseen. It is not tangible, but it can be perceived as movement. Think of it as a dance of particles, as sound is pressure of air molecules. The more I kept thinking about how sound can behave (and that little dance) and how that could be visually represented (aside from the common graphic displays that we are all accustomed to), the more curious I became about trying to understand its nature and functions. This is how Reflections on Sound was conceived and led to its first series of projects.
I chose the title, because it suited the project itself. When sound hits a surface, it is reflected back with less energy. Sound reflection is important as it helps us to localise its original source. A reflection is also a mental process, a contemplation, a long consideration and a personal interpretation of the stages between thinking and learning.
At LFS we are constantly trying to push the boundaries of what we do through experimentation, play and research, and I felt this was a great subject for us to explore further and find ways to integrate this idea into a project with LFS students. As tutors we are in constant search for inspiration, looking to take floristry into new directions, merging it with new disciplines, so using this new series of projects alongside floristry tools and techniques seemed an apt way discover the potential of floristry.
Space is one of the most important considerations that an architect must consider when designing a building. A florist places the same importance on space when designing a flower arrangement, a flower/botanical sculpture or a flower installation. Space is of paramount importance and it affects the design process of a particular composition. This can be traced through different techniques and traditions of floristry throughout history, for example in the Japanese art of arranging flowers, Ikebana, where negative space is given equal value.
For sound too, space is a vital component of its behaviour: sound behaves differently depending on the architecture of the physical space in which it occurs. The materials and geometry are factors that affect how sound is transmitted and ultimately how we perceive sound, and that is what we call acoustics: the science concerned with the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound.
We were fortunate enough to receive the help and expertise of Jose Tomaz Gomes, a sound engineer and acoustician based in London, who with his state-of-the-art equipment and scientific knowledge guided us through the simulation of sound behavior on the main floor of LFS. Through a specialised software we were able to start the simulation process of a hypothetical sound situation that took place inside the school.
The first step was to measure the space, consider and note down all of its building and decorative materials (i.e. wooden floors, cement, metal railings, glass) so we could then add them into the software for it to analyse and consider their properties for its necessary calculations. Once the software had all the above information, it generated a 3D model of the actual building based on the space measurements.
Image II / III: Measuring and modelling the space of LFS's main classroom.
The next step was to create a hypothetical sound situation in which we had to place people talking in set locations with set distances and with set sound speaking levels (decibels dB). The software would then simultaneously consider the architecture of the space and its building materials, but also any other sound sources in the space (for instance, a sound system playing music in a set volume level).
This was our sound hypothesis:
1 x tutor speaking at 46dB
5 x students standing around and chatting at 40dB
1 x Sound system at the back of the room playing pop music at 35dB.
Image IV: Creating a sound hypothetical situation within the space by placing people and other sound sources.
By using the predefined settings for calculation, the software ran simulations and generated a series of still images that mapped several acoustic parameters such as reverberation time and sound pressure level, which were then used for visual inspiration (see images V,VI). These still images could be seen as still life: not of a Dutch painting, but of a sound simulation inside the school.
By choosing a 3D visualisation of the energy dispersion in time from an omnidirectional source based on our data, the visuals of the simulation were extremely interesting and awe-inspiring and made us focus more on the simulation pictured in Image VIII.
Image V, VI: Software simulation: still images mapping different acoustic parameters
Another interesting fact that affected our process was the software’s use of colours: The software measures and illustrates the intensity of sound levels through colour. Colours correspond to the different sound levels. This process was seen and translated as a colour palette generator which was based on the different sound levels. For us this was a great way to think about the use of colour and on how to make colour decisions for the final design of the installation.
FLORISTRY X SOUND SIMULATION
Based on the inspiration we took from the simulated visualisations through the software and the concept of the whole project, we used a round metal frame as the starting point to ‘weave’ acrylic transparent rods which were attached on the metal frame (see Image VII) .
Creating custom-made frames or re-using already existing ones made by any type of material is part of floristry’s so-called mechanics. This became our structure, the mechanics of the piece and the main feature of the design.
Image VII / VIII: Detail of completed installation / 3D simulation of sound dispersion within the LFS main floor area.
We chose a one-type material in bulk to enhance the structure. Hundreds of dried painted Strelitzia leaves were attached on the main body of the installation in different positions, facing all directions on each of the acrylic layers.
Once we finished the design, we could see how it would change within the space depending on which level we were hanging it and at which angle. The experimentation continued whilst pushing the structure forward and backwards like a swing, but also around making sure it twirled.
Embarking on this series was eye-opening. Being a creator of any sort, the challenge is always to find new ways of interpreting what we see or hear. It is of course exciting too, which is a source of adrenaline - a driving force in order to create. Enriching and merging your craft with knowledge from a distant or a completely different place, questioning and re-imagining your own way or the way of others, is how you create the future and keep moving forward with our craft.
Images XII / XIV: Photography and projection / Software simulation. Sound waves are interpreted the way light waves behave according to laws of optics.
The future of this series will be in continuing the quest for interpreting, translating, interacting and paralleling both technically and conceptually, all aspects of sound behaviour with floristry and beyond, combining nature and technology.
As the following categories are fundamentals of the behavioural aspects of sound we will continue developing the series researching the following terms:
Reflection / Absorption / Diffraction / Refraction / Diffusion.