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Designing Sound

Sound designer Yuri Suzuki explores crystal’s acoustic qualities with an interactive installation for Swarovski. Tamsin Bradshaw speaks to the designer about the piece, which will be on show at Art Central 2017.

Designing Sound

Visitors to Hong Kong’s Art Central 2017 will be able to create their own ethereal sound harmonies using a magical, metallic crystallophone. Named Sharevari, the crystallophone is the work of Yuri Suzuki, and it combines ancient materials with the latest technologies to create new, beautiful sounds.

Suzuki is a London-based, Japanese sound artist, designer and electronic musician. The former DJ – he lived in Berlin playing disco, house and techno before moving to London to become an industrial designer – created Sharevari as part of Swarovski’s Designers of the Future Award, which makes its global debut at Design Miami/ Basel each year. Swarovski bestows the award on talented, emerging designers; alongside Suzuki, 2016’s winners were glass artist Anjali Srinivasan and design duo Studio Brynjar & Veronika. Each of the winners was asked to keep several key words in mind when collaborating with Swarovski: betterment, longevity and sustainability.

Here, Suzuki talks about his inspiration, working with Swarovski, and the power of sound.

What inspired your design for Sharevari?

Swarovski’s really beautiful on the visual side, but because my background is more about sound design and sound art, I wanted to propose something that showcased crystal’s other properties. I wanted an interactive sound art piece that uses Swarovski crystals.

Crystal-made instruments did exist as far back as the 17th century, but people stopped making them, for strange reasons. They believed glass instruments sent people insane because of the amazing sounds they can create. There’s no proof or scientific reason for this of course.

Where does the name Sharevari come from?

Originally, the word ‘charivari’ relates to a folk tradition of protest, which involves people making sound using household equipment. It seemed appropriate because there are so many political changes going on right now, and people really need to have an opinion.

Sharevari is also a song that came from Detroit in the 1980s. Detroit had an amazing time at the height of the motor industry, and Sharevari the song came from this time. So many young people still respect that song, and they’re still remixing it. It’s quite a positive way to show longevity and sustainability, which are a priority for Swarovski.

Please could you tell us about the design and build process for Sharevari?

I’ve been working on acoustic materials for musical instruments for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve worked with crystal. Glass and crystal are really difficult materials to use, but they can make quite beautiful sounds at the same time.

The whole process was half a year. Starting from the idea, and exchanging, and production, and how to do music compositions as well.

Swarovski used the newest technologies. One of their clever engineers, Helmut, found a way to combine these technologies for this project. To make it easy for people to interact with the instrument, we used motion-tracking sensors and computer programming.

I gather you’re investigating how sound and music affect people’s minds. Please could you tell us about your explorations so far?

I’m constantly investigating what kind of effects sounds have in our daily lives, and how simple sound can have a dramatic effect. Hearing is the closest sense to the human brain – it’s much stronger than sight, actually.

I’m working on sound with artificial intelligence right now. The results should be quite interesting. I’m also working with some musicians. For example, I’ve worked with to create mechanical instruments, which was fascinating.

Sharevari will be on display at the main entrance to Art Central 2017. The event will run from 21 to 25 March 2017 at Central Harbourfront Event Space, 9 Lung Wo Road, Central.

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