In the Sea of Sounds

Photo: Tanja Kanazir / Drugo more (Flickr gallery)

How does a tugboat sound underwater? Or a propeller only ten meters distant from the breakwater? What is the sound of the sea – below the water line – which hits the stern of a tied ship? How do the fish “hear” the distant sound of harbor buoy chains in the wind?

After his last year`s sound installation A Track in a Time, which told a story about the industrial heritage of the city of Rijeka, Ivo Vičić will present his new workpiece: Harbour of Rijeka – Underwater Soundscape, from 17 March to 2 April 2016, in Filodrammatica Gallery. The exhibition opens on Thursday, 17 March at 7 pm.

Being an excellent sound transmitter, water carries sound four times faster than air, so the sounds below water can be very well heard over long distances. This physical characteristic the water bears is intensively used by marine mammals in communication, navigation and hunting. Unfortunately, the underwater noise generated by human machines is also equally well transmitted over long distances, which represents a growing global problem of today.

Underwater sound recording differs from the “usual” recording, demanding special underwater microphones – hydrophones – very sensitive to vibrations, which makes the whole process of recording quite complicated. Under the water, distant sound sources seem closer than they really are, so it is quite difficult to determine the direction they are coming from. The reason lies in the physical characteristic of water which allows easier absorption of higher frequencies (ie. those which help us locate sounds in space), and harder absorption of those in the middle and lower audible spectrum. Therefore, the underwater spatial sound image (stereo) is very difficult to achieve, unlike the one which is attached to a closer source of sound.

In the sea, the ubiquitous background “sea crackling” sound can be heard, which gets louder as we get closer to the coast or shallow water. It is caused by millions of tiny marine organisms, very small crabs and shrimps that cause cavitation in the water by sudden and very rapid closing of their pincers, which they use to stun the prey they hunt. The underwater recordings of the port of Rijeka show that the crackle is very intense because it was done by the breakwater, which is their habitat. In addition, the sea in the port of Rijeka is relatively shallow which helps the underwater microphone get closer to these organisms.

In addition to the ubiquitous sound of living organisms, other sounds in this sound composition/installation are the sounds of human activities: sounds of boats, marine engines, propellers, port cranes while unloading bulk cargo, etc.

The underwater world of Harbour of Rijeka is a very interesting and quite noisy place with a series of sounds that are presented to the public for the very first time. Sound composition/installation Harbour of Rijeka – Underwater Soundscape is the result of many years of shooting underwater space of the Harbour of Rijeka and includes selection of interesting shots.

In addition to the recorded material used in sound composition/installation in the gallery space of Filodrammatica, visitors will have the opportunity to hear the underwater sounds of the harbour in real time. For that purpose, hydrophones will be placed in the sea at the Rijeka breakwater, wherefrom the sound will be transmitted to the gallery space via Internet connection.



Ivo Vičić is an artist working with sound whether as a recording artist (DJ Arexx), sound designer and musical producer or a field sound engineer. He is experienced in scientific sound-related projects, in radio, documentaries, and has done some experimental work that fuses field sound with music. His latest work includes recordings of wild animals such as wolves and foxes and until today he remains the only professional sound recordist in Croatia that is a contributor to the Nature Sound Map.

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