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The Sound Observatory

Graeme Miller

© Hugo Glendinning
1992 – 2024

The Sound Observatory was a large scale civic sculpture for the city of Birmingham – an aural observation post and a living street map pulsating with speech, music and sound.

This collage of urban sounds was culled from the landscape outside where thirty pinpointed sites around the city were sampled and recorded in a harvest of urban sounds and anecdotes. From hospitals, gardens, railway sidings and duel carriageways, the sounds were relayed into the space through thirty hung speakers. This web of diverse and disparate sounds were synthesised together with an ‘automatic’ grand piano score. The spectators listened to the insane flux of the city – the distant and familiar layered and interwoven into an integrated whole.

Commissioned by Sounds Like Birmingham, UK City of Music 1992

“The effect is hypnotic… and yet the more you listen, the more disconcerting is the information you receive through this stethoscope applied to the city’s heart”

Birmingham Post

With Heather Ackroyd, Emma Bernard, Richard Eayrs, Myra Heller, Mary Longford, Philip Wood (observers)

© Hugo Glendinning