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[Best of 2014] The Year in Sound

2014 was a loud year for sound art.

With so much visual stimulation constantly flashing, spinning, and bursting before our eyes, it's easy to forget to listen. As a result, our visually dominated culture often unceremoniously reduces audio art to background noise. This year, however, a swarm of scientists, researchers, and artists fought back, and we were consistently blown away by the new territories being charted in the field of audible art.

This is the Year in Sound:

+ We watched symphonies for and by robots.

+ Danish scientists lit Dubstep on fire.

+ In February, we decided not to test our luck with the most lethal sound system in the world.

+ Music visualization projects inspired a succession of mind-bending cymatic videos with dancing bubbles, pulsing ferrofluid, and liquid landscapes.

A stunning cymatic experiment made using sand. via

+ Dominic Wilcox collected the chaotic clamor of the city through the cone-like contraption of his Binaudios.

+ Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon guided us through her aural architecture and Bora Yoon talked to us about her life as an architect of sonic environments.  

+ Electronic music producer Max Cooper created an alternate reality through a 4D sound system designed to show “how much information you gain about your surroundings from hearing alone.”

+ April was all about Kayne West’s audio DNA:

Kanye West's audio DNA. Image generated via

+ In May, we listened to the sound of the internet.

+ Walls literally spoke to us.

+ Claudia Robles sonified sweat through a Galvanic Skin Response interface in her project SKIN.

+ Sound wavelengths found their IRL soulmates in a series of beautifully unique nature photography.

Nature photography matched up with sound waves. via

+ In June, we we hugged the future of sound art.

+ In Mira Calix’s installation of paper streams and musical movement, Inside There Falls, the walls literally spoke to us.

+ CalArts cultivated an enhanced cybernetic garden of instruments and realized the importance of irrigation: “when they’re watered correctly, it will sound better. If the soil is dry, it will be repetitive and stagnant.”

+ We tripped out to RedXPoison’s psychedelic audio-reactive digital particles in October, and watched Mark Wheeler paint Los Angeles with sound.

From RedXPoison's undulating audio visualization for Dave Tipper's "The Re-Up."  via

+ We entered the lyrical labyrinth of QVALIA’s interactive music video game.

+ Machina’s MIDI Jacket translated our funky grooves into music.

+ In August, we learned the secrets behind a successful sounding movie trailer and the underwater origins of Darth Vader’s death rattle.

+ We gained access to NASA’s new SoundCloud library, tuned in to talkative space spatulas, and re-mixed an extensive planetary playlist from Comet 67P’s sonic oscillations.

+ Traditional instruments became larger than life through human harps.

+ We got lost in the eerie acoustics of new instrument, the Yaybahar.

+ We also pretended to be a synth-pop version of Tom Hanks in BIG with this gigantic drum machine.

Musician Görkem Şen plays his original instrument, the Yaybahar. Image via

+ Non-traditional instruments also had their respective time to shine, from the hacked sushi of MIT Media Lab’s “Makey Makey,” to the "Musicletta," courtesy of the “all-in-one musical invention kit,” Ototo.

+ Finally, this past November, glitch art sang its heart out.

Sound, we hear you loud and clear: it's been a great year.  

This is the second part of our end-of-the-year series. Stay tuned as we continue to look back on 2014 and collect all of our favorite examples of modern creativity, fantastic innovations, and important trends.

Related:

[Best of 2014] The Year in Brains

Watch Fire, Sand, and Electricity Become Mesmerizing Music Visualizers

Hacked Sushi and Chicken Nuggets Become Instruments in This Music Video