Dust Serenade is a reenactment of an acoustic experiment designed in 1866 by German physicist August Kundt. Inspired by physicist and musician Ernst Chladni, whose sand figures visualized sound waves in solid materials, Kundt devised an experiment for visualizing longitudinal sound waves through fine lycopodium dust. The setup allowed him to measure the speed of sound in different gases.
Dust Serenade was designed by Dietmar Offenhuber and Orkan Telhan, PhD students in the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, and Markus Decker, sound artist from the Kunstuniversität Linz in Austria. The work is one of a series of interactive sound projects by the artists that enable visitors to experience the physical aspects of “sound, presence, and atmosphere.” Works in the series have been shown at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, and in Zagreb, Istanbul, and São Paulo.
The artists intend to remind us of the materiality of sound. Tubes filled with scraps of words (cut up research papers) interact with sound waves, and turn into figures of dust. Visitors can modulate the frequency of the sound by moving a piston to create different harmonic sound effects. The sound waves form, re-shape, and disintegrate the text.
The project was funded by the Council for the Arts at MIT and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture.