Holy waters soundscape

Soundscape design for Holy Waters

Artist Antonia Hernández commissioned me to design the soundscape for her site-specific installation Hydrofiction 01: Holy Waters.

Hernandez’ hydrofiction aims to spotlight and counteract the commodification of water through a poetic performative gesture. She traveled to Chicago and collected water from the University of Chicago School of Economics, where Chilean economists learned neoliberal doctrines fifty years ago. She then transported the water to Petorca — one of Chile’s driest valleys due to extended drought and avocado farming that deplete the scarce water resources.

Antonia requested a site-specific soundscape for a long corridor at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. The space is a 22-meter long space that she intervened with vinyl print cutouts with poems, a 2-channel video projection, and sound.

Corridor at the Akademie der Künste where the installation happened.
External view of the 22-meter long corridor at the Akademie der Künste where the installation happened.

The premise for the sound design was to create a soundscape reminiscent of a river or stream that is soothing, but if you pay attention, it is made out of sounds related to money.

We brainstormed sonic materials and ideas and came up with stream and river torrents, the sound of a dry river, raindrops, bubbles, subsonic drops, spinning coins, bill counting, gaming sounds, and financial markets. These elements can be seen in a draft graphical score for the soundscape below. Horizontal axis represents time while vertical axis represents spatial position.

Draft graphical score for the soundscape.
Graphical score draft for the soundscape. Horizontal axis is time, vertical axis is spatial position.

The audience would walk along the corridor; thus, there would be no sense of left or right but rather front and back. This characteristic inspired me to immerse the audience into a stream of sounds where all elements travel from back to front as if guided or pulled by water flow towards the end of the corridor housing two-channel video projection.

Speakers were arranged accordingly (as shown below). Full-range speakers (FR sp) are blue while subwoofers (sub) are pink; a directional speaker and acoustic mirror are located near the screens.

Corridor at the AdK for the installation.
Corridor at the AdK for the installation. Different types of speakers are marked in blue and pink.

The speaker near screens is highly-directional and face an acoustic mirror hanging freely from the ceiling. Changes in air flow due to audience movement inside the corridor make the mirror turn reflecting and directing the sound beam across the full corridor.

You can view videos showing how installation appeared during daytime and one moment during exhibition at night below:

Installation (Daytime)

Installation (nighttime)

Holy Waters site

In the project’s site, Antonia provides a more detailed description of the project and its theoretical framework.

Theoretical framework and description of the project on the site.

Holy Waters @ Transmediale

The Transmediale site also features the installation, putting it in context of the overall exhibition.

Transmediale's site on Holy Waters put Hernandez' work in the exhibition's context.


I thank the following sound and music artists for their insightful feedback:

  • Alejandra Pérez
  • Esteban Maestre
  • Maar Colasso
  • Mariá Portugal

And these other artists for their support:

  • Carola Redondo
  • Juan Sáez