photophon #1

Concept : Aernoudt Jacobs
Production: Intro in situ / Resonance Network
In collaboration with KU Leuven, Laboratory of Acoustics and Thermal Physics
Executive Production: Overtoon
Thanks: FabLab.iMAL, Fablab Brussels, Bert Verstraeten, Christ Glorieux, Bert Roozen, Frank Kentie and Stéfan Piat
With the support of the Flemish Authorities, Flemish Community Commission

photophon #1 is an installation based on intensive acoustic research of the photoacoustic effect. The photoacoustic effect is based on the phenomena of radiant energy. A strong light source can be converted into a sound wave due to absorption and thermal excitation. This causes sound waves due to pressure variations. The photoacoustic effect was discovered in the 19th by Alexander Graham Bell. He then used candlelight, sunlight, and the first forms of electricity in order to amplify sound.

As an installation photophon #1 proposes a new way of generating sounds without the use of electronic amplification. Light creates enough energy to produce sounds. A number of almost identical photophonic objects are playing a variable tone of the fundamental frequency of 523Hz. These tones are created from white lasers that project their strong light-beams through a rotating disc which chops the beam into small fragments. The fragments will produce tones in each photophonic object. The tonality of the installation will have a constant shift in time and will have a changing vibrating micro-tonal structure.

With this installation I'm mostly interested in achieving a sonic event from pure ephemeral phenomena. I am mesmerized by the idea that sounds around us can be created with light. The conclusion that can be made from Bell's notes and research is that any material has a sonority if you present a strong light-beam onto it. We know that every material has a resonant frequency but also every material can be 'activated' with light to 'sound' and this sound has a direct correlation to its resonant frequencies. Of course the shape of materials will also have a big impact, but this remains a side effect. For me this is quite an important revelation because it touches the world of sounds in its very essence. The sun radiates enough energy to produce sounds. You don't need to create a sound with a direct or physical contact. Sound can happen by itself without any direct physical contact.
The utmost ephemeral aspects of sounds around us can be revealed with light. Also the fact that one can build a photo-acoustic cell from basic materials like copper and glass is a fascinating aspect for me.

photophon #1 is the first installment of a collaborative research with KU Leuven, Acoustics Lab.

photophon #1 is produced by Intro in situ and will première in Maastricht in September 2013 and is part of Resonance, the European Sound Art Network.