With the exhibition Sounds that shouldn’t be there I addressed together with sound artist Robert Aeberhard (CH) the occurrence of hidden and unwanted sounds. These hard to track sounds are experienced differently by everybody and do rarely have an immediate rational explanation. We used a combination of field recordings, interviews and images to create a sound and video installation in order to approach a phenomenon that escapes human perception but – with its effect on body and sanity – should encourage a social debate.

In September 2015, Robert Aeberhard stayed at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. In his studio, he often suffered from headaches and insomnia and after a full day in the studio he had a ringing sound in his ears. But it was not until he began playing bass guitar and working with microphones that he noticed a strong interference sound. Depending on the position and angle of the microphone, the sounds changed frequency and loudness. After having recorded the sounds, Aeberhard built sample instruments, which let him play harmonies and melodies with the sounds – a new kind of instrument was born. In order to sleep and work unharmed by the energy, Aeberhard covered the walls of his studio with aluminium foil. 

Hum sounds are low frequency sounds that don’t have an immediate rational explanation. They are often described as the sound of a distant truck running idle or as low-frequency rumble, which may even cause objects in a room to vibrate. Since these sounds are not audible to everybody, affected persons are often imputed hallucinations. The sources of hum sounds are hard to track: Studies suspect mobile antennas, but also high voltage power lines or vibrations caused by gas pipelines. Also, the military uses long-wave radio frequencies to communicate with submarines or planes around the globe, and affected persons report stronger hum sounds during NATO manoeuvres. Even though few people experience the sounds, they are reported worldwide. With an unshielded microphone and pickup, Robert Aeberhard recorded these undefined sounds in different places while I filmed the locations. 

I also interviewed artists at Cité Internationale des Arts who had their studios close to Aeberhard’s. Sound art, images and interviews are thus parts of a puzzle to encourage a social discussion on a hard to track and badly known phenomenon, whose influence on  the human body and sanity is still unclear. 

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