Most art galleries have a “look, don’t touch” policy, maintaining the barrier between exhibit and observer, but not the new installation at Le Laboratoire gallery in Cambridge. Designed by music composer Tod Machover and his team at the MIT Media Lab, the exhibit is called Vocal Vibrations. It uses audio design to create an interactive sonic experience, encouraging participants to use their voices as a meditative tool and form of self-reflection.
The exhibit includes three main sensory experiences: the chapel, the cocoon and the orb. The chapel is the first part of the gallery, which visitors pass through immediately upon entry. With plush rugs on the floor, cushions scattered about and several benches, the chapel aims to provide an inviting and comfortable environment for guests. Surrounding the entire area are ten speakers playing a looped recording of a 25-minute track designed by Machover and his team. The music includes vocalizations from artists of various styles such as folk, early renaissance and a soprano soloist.
“It’s meant for people to sit there and kind of lose themselves in the sonic experience, the musical experience, and maybe in thinking about themselves and their own voices in a slightly different way,” Machover said.
Also included in the chapel is a chaise lounge designed by MIT associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences Neri Oxman.
“The inspiration came from the experience where the human body encounters voice for the first time, which is in the womb,” Oxman said. “The idea was to design a chaise or a reclining chair to quiet the human mind, so it is a reclining chair with a head piece that’s designed as an echoic chamber that allows you to absorb sounds very efficiently.”