Finnish Forest Frequencies Study Case

Making of the sound installation by Kirsi Ihalainen

Starting from fall 2013 I started to plan a sound installation for a “Production Clinic” course held by the Media Lab, Aalto University. I was one of the selected artists to the exhibition that was meant to be created to Spiral Garden in Tokyo, Japan.

After several brainstorming sessions I decided to create a recreation of a Finnish forest with sounds and wood. The installation would be based on my previous installation made with Finnish Forest Frequencies. I wanted to do an 8 channel installation with Feonic sound actuators and place them inside Finnish deadwood. Because I did not have enough actuators from school, I contacted Feonic Technologies and they became my sponsor for the installation.

During spring 2014 the building of the installation started and I found a pine deadwood from Äänekoski, a place in the middle of Finland. With some help, a long deadwood tree that had died in the forest hundreds of year ago, was taken down ad cut to pieces.

My idea for the installation started from a big wooden stomp, I wanted it to be the center piece of the installation. This stomp was also found from the forest and given to me. The stomp was also dead but of a fir tree. Later I found out that the stomp was against the regulations of importing raw wood to Japan, so I planned to save it for later, to an exhibition in Helsinki.

After gathering all the wood and making some tests with Feonic actuators, whether the wood will be ringing or not, the wood were transported to Helsinki. I noticed how the sound became better and better once the wood was dry and cracked inside. In the wood studio I started to dry the wood so that it would dry as slowly as possible. I put a lot of wood-glue at time to time on to the wood pucks and at the end of the trunk pieces. I let the wood to dry as long as I could.

Video of taking down the pine deadwood and photos of glueing the wood.

Deadwood fall
Cutting the deadwood into pieces.
All the wood in the studio.
Glueing the wood surfaces.
Glued wood pucks.
Letting the glue to dry.
Glueing more than once.
Letting the wood to dry as long as possible.
Wood left to dry.
Drying the trunks also.
Only glueing the trunks at the end.

When the time came that I just had to start handling the wood, I started to sand the glue off from the pucks and to drill holes inside the wood. It took several tests how to do this because the wood started very easily to crack from where the hole was made. At some point there came an idea to hang the wood so that the metal hanging part would cover the Feonic actuator inside the wood. This lead me to work with metal because such metal pieces were not sold by anyone.

Videos and photos of sanding and drilling the wood.

Sanding the wood
Drilling the wood pucks
Drilling the wood trunks
Making the holes first with a wooden hat.
The wooden hats were harder to make.
making holes without hats and sanding them even for the Feonic actuator to attach.
Holes for the Feonics in the trunks.

The metal parts needed to be done individually for each wood because all the wood surfaces curved a little bit differently. First I made metal plates with screw holes and then welded hooks on to them. Also the metal wires needed to be done for the hooks. There were several steps to these that needed careful execution because of safety.

Videos and photos of making the metal elements to the wood.

Drilling the metal plates
Welding the metal plates
Sanding the metal plates
Metal plates for the wood.
Before welding the hooks to the plates.
After welding the metal plate.
All the metal plates ready for molding.
Placing the metal plates on to the wood.
Attached metal plate with the metal wire.

After the wood and metal works were done I started to place the actuators inside the wood and doing some sound testing. I needed to measure the audio cables for certain lengths and also soldering the RCA plugs to them. I also made a box for a amplifier meant for the Feonic S-Drive bass actuator. Before finally placing the actuators inside certain wood pieces, I tested the wood with each frequency and selected the best resonating wood piece for that frequency range. It sounded better and louder if the wood piece resonated well with the frequency. After selecting the wood for the frequencies I started to place the actuators with really powerful 3M two sided tape.

Photos of placing the Feonic actuators inside the wood.

Feonic inside the wood
Covering the Feonic with the metal plate
The Feonic attached the wood with 3M tape
String would help me later to pull out the Feonic
Placing the Feonic S-Drive under the wood
The wood has legs with tape to attach to concrete surface
The legs will leave the air circulate for the Feonic S-Drive
The wooden seat will vibrate with the Feonic S-Drive
Soldering the RCA cables
Measuring cables for the Feonics
Glueing the amplifier box for the S-Drive
Box for the amplifier ready for painting
Painted box with the amplifier for the Feonic S-Drive
SuperCollider fine tuning
Packing the wood
Packing the wood
Rolling the cables with the wires carefully
Packing of the wood
Packing of the wood
Transport box

Then I started hanging the wood and do some tests with the sounds levels. The testing turned into programming more with the SuperCollider audio coding language that I had created my installation software with. I got more and more ideas of how to make the sound scape more interesting. So now the forest frequencies are breathing more with the sound levels because I made random sound level automation onto them. Also I added some Finnish animal sounds that randomly come from the hanging trees.

Photos of hanging the wood and testing.

Hanging the wood in the big studio
Measuring the metal wires to certain room height.
Hanging setup of the wood.
Hanging the wood.
Metal hanging details.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging details with the audio cable.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging the the big trunks for a later Helsinki exhibition.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging the wood.
The big studio space for testing and building.
Installation in the big studio.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging the wood.
Hanging the the big trunks for a later Helsinki exhibition.
Hanging the the big trunks for a later Helsinki exhibition.
Attaching the wood to the floor with thin line.
Testing in the small studio for fine tuning.
Testing in the small studio for fine tuning.
Testing in the small studio for fine tuning.

After the programming was pretty much done and I was happy with the results I started to do some packing for Japan transportation. I was afraid that the wood would completely crack while transport. This was exactly what happened to one of the puck pieces. I had to change that to a spare one that I also had there just in case.

Photos of packing everything and photos from Spiral Garden setting up, in Tokyo, Japan.

Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.
Hanging the wood at the Spiral Garden.

In Tokyo at the Spiral Garden the setting up was easy. Everything went according to my plans and calculations. I was really happy with the results and decided to have a dramatic spot lighting on all of the wood pieces except double lights for the wood piece on the ground where you could sit and feel the vibrations of the bass actuator. By this time I felt relieved and was proud of myself for getting everything done. It was a lot of work and I could now see and hear the result of my work in the space where I had designed it for.

Videos and photos from Spiral Garden exhibition, in Tokyo, Japan.

FFF @ Spiral Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

The installation sounds are recorded in a Finnish forest in Vesilahti, Finland. The top most heard frequencies in the forest are selected for each channel. The sounds have been analyzed and according to this information their dominating frequencies have been selected. These frequencies are played back in the installation through sound actuators that are placed inside wood. The actuators make the wood resonate and vibrate: the sound will come from the wood itself making it the speaker. Also Finnish animal sounds are heard occasionally in the space.

In total the sound installation has 8 audio channels with 8 pieces of pine deadwood. The pieces of wood are hanged from the ceiling. Together with the wood the frequency sounds and animal sounds will recreate a space sounding like a Finnish forest.

The sound installation is sponsored by Feonic Technology, Aalto University, Siekkelin Puutyö Ky, Logmakers Ltd Oy and supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland and Finnish Institute in Japan (フィンランドセンター).

Special thanks to:
Esko Tourunen, Ricky Tourunen, Thomas Tourunen, Ritva Tourunen, Martin Hackenberg, Ville Arkonkoski, Teemu Mäntylä, Issey Ishikura, Mari Huhtanen, Tia Saba, Mikko Ristimäki, Janne Lehtimäki, Antti Ikonen & Alejandro Olarte

I want to thank everyone who has been helping me with the installation!

Info of the installation on Spiral website >> Here!

FeonicFeonic news about my installation! >> Here!

Aalto Logo valkonen2Aalto University news about the exhibition! >> Here!

About my installation at the Spiral exhibition in Japanese >> Coming up soon!

More info about me in Japanese >> Coming up soon!

スパイラルエキシビションでの作品については (About my installation at the Spiral exhibition in Japanese) >> こちら

プロフィールに関する詳細は (More info about me in Japanese) >> こちら