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Sound Design for Whale Hall at Natural History Museum

2019-08-18

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The Nature Historic Museum in Bergen is the first and oldest building of the University of Bergen. It is a landmark in the city and is itself preserved as a historic building. This includes several of the exhibitions, not least the majestic Whale Hall. Several smaller and eleven large whale skeletons are mounted in the ceiling, including a 24 meter blue whale.

The museum is currently closed and undergoing restorations. Bjarne Kvinnsland, David Rothenberg and myself have been invited to work on a super-exciting project. A 24 channel sound installation will be part of the permanent exhibition in the Whale Hall. The speakers are custom built at SEAS in Moss to fit the historic building. The development has required close dialogue with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

Bjarne, David and me are responsible for the sound design, and our work has been ongoing for more than a year. It draws on Davids vast knowledge of whale song and communication and his massive collection of whale recordings. Many recordings are his own. Others originate from researchers and nature preservists from around the globe. In addition David and Bjarne have been on several expeditions to record more material.

We all share responsibility for composition and sound design. I have the main responsibility for programming and spatialisation. The speaker layout defies the standard sweet-spot approaches. So, last winter I developed an alternative solution, using triangulation. It serves similar needs to the DBAP algorithm, but offers more distinct spatial localisation. That has served us well.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project. It is a privelege to work in such a space. We are not pernitted to share photos until the opening, so this post will have to make do with one from the park. The museum reopens October 14. I can’t wait!

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