Sonic Wallpapers

Sonic Wallpaper

What does this wallpaper sound like to you? We commissioned sound artist Felicity Ford to create audio pieces inspired by a selection of wallpapers from MoDA’s collections. In interviews people talked about homes they remembered from childhood; there is a dreamlike or fantasy dimension to some of their responses, ranging from “that would be great in a room with an indoor swimming pool” to “I would love to have a room just for making jam, and to put that paper in there”. You can listen to the Sonic Wallpaper audio piece that accompanies this wallpaper by clicking on full object record and then the ‘more’ tab.
  • Track 1: Sounds recorded: creaking wood, scribbling pen, parchment, tea-cups, paper, cat.

    This wallpaper got people talking about writing rooms. So for the accompanying sound piece, Felicity sought a wood panelled space without computers or air-conditioning, and with old casement windows. The house where Dr Johnson compiled his dictionary contains just such a space. Felicity went there to record some of the sounds used to create this Sonic Wallpaper.

  • Track 2 : Sounds recorded: church organ, indoor swimming, the ocean, seagulls

    This wallpaper, with its striking, architectural design, reminded Colleen and others of churches, of Tunisia, of swimming pools, and of the glittering blue of the Mediterranean. Felicity wanted to recreate the sense of grandeur, water and light which this paper evoked in the people who saw it, and so she recorded in a church designed by Pugin, an early twentieth century public baths, and beside the sea.

  • Track 3: Sounds recorded: sounds in an Indian restaurant, mustard seeds popping, onions frying, Velcro sticking and un-sticking, fuzzy felt, wallpaper printing machinery at Cole & Sons wallpaper factory

    The flocked surface of this wallpaper got everyone talking about touch and tactility. So Felicity recorded sounds with similar associations like Velcro sticking and un-sticking, the spices in curries sizzling and the slightly sticky sounds of fuzzy felt. The mysterious physical process by which flock is applied got people thinking about wallpaper production. So Felicity mixed the sounds of wallpaper production at Cole & Sons wallpaper factory with those more domestic associations in the Sonic Wallpaper piece.

  • Track 4: Sounds recorded: vintage tea set, tea-drinking, bird

    This wallpaper made Colleen think of tea drunk in elegant interiors, so recordings of fine bone china were the main sources of the sounds used to build its Sonic Wallpaper equivalent. There was also some discussion about the repeat of the bird in the pattern, and so the sound of a bird has been repeated throughout the Sonic Wallpaper piece.

  • Track 5: Sounds recorded: super-8 projector, sparklers, pop corn popping

    This wallpaper inspired everyone to talk about their childhood fascinations with stars - both movie stars and the stars in the sky. For the Sonic Wallpaper equivalent, a vintage super-8 projector and a packet of sparklers laid the foundation for an appropriate soundscape. Popcorn also features in the Sonic Wallpaper, because of its associations with the magic of the cinema and because it is sort of soft yet explosive, like the design.

  • Track 6: Sounds recorded: floor loom, radio, kettle-boiling, drawers opening and closing.

    This wallpaper got Collen and Annie talking about the idea of "neutral" colour schemes, and the politics of wallpaper, while Tom was particularly inspired by its woven or fabric-like quality. Cheap, everyday and utilitarian, it inspired Felicity to work on a Sonic Wallpaper piece which combined sounds from everyday life in the home with the sound of a loom weaving cloth.

  • Track 7: Sounds recorded: pebbles on the beach, ice in cocktail shaker, hotel lobby, silver foil.

    The silvery texture of this wallpaper design reminded people of things as diverse as pebbles on the beach, and glamorous cocktail parties. Felicity was interested in the idea of recreating the shimmering qualities admired in the design, and went in search of sounds which referenced the things that Jo, Helen and others had talked about : ice, surf, jazz in marble hallways, and the metallic sounds of kitchen foil.

  • Track 8: Sounds recorded: vintage dental instruments, vintage costume pearls, costume jewellery.

    This wallpaper made people think about dental surgeries, old ladies' jewellery boxes and 1960s gas fires. Felicity was especially interested in the connections between pearls and teeth in people's responses to this wallpaper design, and so she layered sounds collected from pearls and dental instruments to create the Sonic Wallpaper.

  • Track 9: Sounds recorded: the filtration systems inside many aquariums in the Aquatic Design Centre, and wrasse feeding in the Horniman Museum Aquariums.

    With their anemone-like tendrils, the chrysanthemums in this wallpaper design reminded Joceline and others of sea-creatures as well as flowers. The Sonic Wallpaper equivalent to this piece is therefore built up of textures collected in the Aquatic Design Centre and the Horniman Museum Aquariums.

  • Track 11: Sounds recorded: matchbox cars on wooden floorboards, grass and carpet, the sound of outdoor cafe areas with parasols.

    With its playful shapes and geometric design, this wallpaper reminded everyone of 1960s architecture, of aerial photographs of the earth, and of play-mats designed to look like towns. Felicity worked with matcbox cars and different floor surfaces to suggest the same sense of navigating a miniature world that the wallpaper inspires, in the development of this Sonic Wallpaper piece.

  • Track 12: Sounds recorded: rain on the roof, ascending stairs.

    Everyone who looked at this wallpaper felt that it would be best suited to a staircase because of the sense of beans 'climbing' up the design. The dots reminded some people of rain. So this Sonic Wallpaper piece has mostly been made from the sounds of ascending stairs and rain on the roof.

  • Track 13: Sounds recorded: sockets around the house, cables around the house, fuse-boxes, the fridge motor, the dishwasher & washing-machine engines, the bath, effervescent bath-bombs, bubble-bath, bathing, splashing.

    This wallpaper reminded Joceline of the nervous system, and was generally thought of as a good design to have in a bathroom. Felicity was unable to record sounds of the nervous system, but the electronic nexus of cables and wires which weaves its way through every modern house is the domestic equivalent. Recordings of electricity created using a pick-up coil and sounds from the bathroom combine in the Sonic Wallpaper piece.

  • Track 14: Sounds recorded: cows, wood-block-printing, wax crayons, bubbling jam.

    The cows in this design were especially popular with everyone who looked at it. Jo revealed a concern that small children might 'fill in' the empty fields with their own designs, as well as an interest about how the wallpaper was made. So Felicity used recordings of wax crayons, cows, and printing with wood block stamps to create the Sonic Wallpaper piece.

  • Track 16: Sounds recorded: splashing the bath, blowing through a straw, aquarium sounds in the Aquatic Design Centre and in the Horniman Museum aquarium.

    The playful qualities of this wallpaper seemed to bring out a mischievous side in everyone; Jo started imagining what the fish might be saying; while others imagined the visual jokes you could create with it, by perhaps papering a whole wall to create the illusion of being stuck in a giant aquarium. Felicity continued this theme of mischief and illusion into the Sonic Wallpaper piece, mixing sounds created by playing with water in the bath with sounds collected in the aquariums.

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