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July 2017 - November 2017
Experiencing Sound through Materials
Shira Kimmel / October 09 2017

Shira Kimmel, director of Instruction and relations at the Aharon Feiner Eden Materials Library, took us on a tour of the exhibition "Sound and Matter in Design", through her professional eyes and in relation to materials and production technologies.

The exhibition Sound and Matter in Design, seeks to examine the relationships between, sound, space, design, culture and material. Examining products from a material point of view raises many questions: How do traditional production techniques affect new ones in the audio systems world? What is the benefit of creating speakers from materials familiar to us from other production fields? And, as technology progresses, do we yearn to return to warm, traditional and less "industrial" materials?

The orchestra, from the exhibition "Sound and Matter in Design" (Photo: Shay Ben-Efraim)

Concretizing Ideas

The concrete, made up of cement, gravel, sand and water, is mainly familiar to us from the construction industry, where it is used to build a skeleton bearing the structure, pillars, foundations, floors and ceilings. In other words, "[...] we often encounter concrete as a 'hidden' material which is covered by layers of plaster and paint.", explains Shmuel Linski, designer of the Exposed Speakers - concrete cast speakers developed and designed as part of his final project in Industrial Design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, 2011.

Concrete is exposed in Linski's work, but it almost seems as if it is "disguised" as a speaker, since it is a product we normally see produced from other materials. Linski pours the concrete into a mold that resembles the formal language of products created by plastic injection. As a result of this treatment, the concrete is given a new function and responsibility - producing sound, which inserts new life into the raw material, in a manner we have not experienced in regards to concrete before. P.A.C.O by Digital Habit studio, a digital speaker that allows music control through body movements and without direct contact, uses concrete as well. The use of concrete within the object's "body" deepens the bass sounds, while the harmonious combination with cedar wood contributes to the sound's clarity.

Aligned Right: Shmuel Linski Exposed Speakers (Photo: Sasha Flit), Aligned Left: Concrete casting, Studio ECO, Material Library Collection (Photo: Natalie Saraf)

Alongside Linski's speakers, the exhibit contains Samuel Accoceberry's Corian Cube Series and Oliver Staiano's V SPEAKER, which serve as docking stations, playing sounds from the mobile devices placed upon them. In both cases, the designers chose Corian - a material made of a mixture of aluminum hydroxide and acryl (PMMA), which is manufactured as pallets for use in applications ranging from work surfaces, kitchens and bathrooms to the design of large-scale commercial spaces. 

Corian is produced in a wide variety of colors and can be processed relatively easily, including heat processing to create three-dimensional shapes. It is anti-bacterial, easy to clean, and resistant to stains, chemicals, scratches, water and UV radiation. By means of special adhesion, the surfaces can be perfectly connected without any trace of the seams between them, which contributes to its pristine and clean appearance. In these cases, the material's special structure also allows the flow of sound without diminishing its intensity. There is no doubt that these features serve the innovative acoustic design created by Accoceberry and Staiano and displayed in the exhibition.

Aligned Right: Samuel Accoceberry Corian Cube Series (Photo: David Meignan), Aligned Left: Corian sample from the Material Library Collection (Photo: Natalie Saraf)

Full Coverage

Not only does the material structure affect the quality and character of sound produced by the speakers, as we saw in the Corian case, but so does the coating they "wear". The Caruso speaker designed by Paolo Cappello - which looks like a cabinet with a golden bell resembling a gramophone or wind instrument - and the OMNI speaker by Francesco Pellisari -hanging from the ceiling and spreading circular sound waves reaching any point in the space - made of ceramic material and covered with a coating called Luster.

Luster is a metallic layer melted on the ceramic glaze during the third firing, producing an effect similar to gold and silver coatings on metals. The use of this technique began in ancient Egypt and has been common since the 10th century AD. This technique is used mainly for noble metals such as gold, platinum and copper, so that the metal does not oxidize in the process. The Luster mixture is composed of salts from various metals combined with wood resin and medium, mediated with an oil base. During the firing, the elements in the chemical composition of the salts are burnt and evaporated, leaving only the metallic layer. For this reason, it is not advisable to heat ceramic dishes that have been decorated with luster in a microwave oven. Since the mixture is relatively expensive, it is usually used for decoration only, but in the case of the Cappello and Pellisari speakers, the luster coating, completely covers all parts of the ceramics.

And from ceramics to "Rosenthal" - the familiar name for porcelain dishes which carry with them memories of home, tradition, and are especially significant as a status symbol. This was a cooperation between the German companies "Rosenthal" and "Teufel", which specializes in wireless speakers, and created the Porcelain Speaker System. The speakers tear shape is not accidental, and its purpose is to achieve the high quality acoustics sound they produce. Porcelain, also known as china clay, was first discovered in China. The unique clay it is made of is named Kaolin, which is collected close to the source rock (granite) and is therefore free of other materials. This is a relatively rare clay and therefore both Kaolin and Porcelain are considered expensive.

Aligned Right: Paolo Capello Caruso (Photo: David Meignan), Aligned Left: Else by Michal Fargo at  the Material Library Collection (Photo: Lynn Counio)

These objects, as well as additional objects in the exhibition, illustrate the innovations which arise from the connection between materials, manufacturers, designers and creators. In other words, most of the materials I mentioned are familiar to us from other content worlds. They carry certain cultural characteristics, features and meanings, but their conceptual and physical connection to the world of sound in general and to electronic devices in particular, stretches the boundaries of matter and thought. To complete the experience of visiting the exhibition, you are welcome to visit the Aharon Feiner Eden Materials Library, where you can find, read, see and touch Porcelain in a sponge-like form, Corian with a variety of sublimation prints, an example of Luster coating, and even flexible, shock resistant concrete. While exploring the library, you will find that materials, just like people, exist within a very wide range of properties, shapes, colors, and sizes.

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