I first heard of “curious sound objects” a few years ago when researching what cool things people had done with the Processing programming language and Arduino hardware platform. One of the most impressive things I stumbled across was this 2010 video by Austrian creative technologist Georg Reil, showing ordinary objects like a pepper grinder or salt shaker, transformed with electronics and sensors into sound-creation devices. Their physical characteristics had been made into a set of tactile controls echoing their origins as objects. The pepper grinder instead, grinds a loop of sound. The shoe stamps out an electronic boom. The smallness of a handbag is reversed into an echo chamber.
Years later, this project appears to have inspired a small movement who have adopted the name and carried it forward. Curious Sound Objects, the art series, is now a four-times running event in Massachusetts. Founded by Nickolas Peter Chelyapov in 2014, the project
“showcases individual, or editioned, sound/sculptural works at the intersection of art and science. All of the works emit sound and typically respond to visitor interactions, and the shows are a celebration of self-expression through sound, making music, and community.”
The video of the first exhibition serves as a good introduction:
Among other things, the sound objects included a bucket of hair gel that squeaked in response to fingers being dipped into it; an electric air guitar that lets you surf an endless wave of feedback (Gerard Patawaran); an electric slinky; a multi-channeled succesor to the theremin (Chris Chronopolous); and a sound meditation experience that includes falling backwards into oatmeal.
Subsequent Curious Sound Object (CSO) shows have honed in on a variation of the concept. The third CSO took as its mission “works that examine the space between people, silence, negative space.” The common thread, or theme of objects you can physically interact with in some way which have a sound response, turns out to be one with an endless variety of interpretations.