Brendon Bussy

Ear Shells at Sounding Out

Posted in Art, Design, Events, Invention, Materials, Research, Sound, Workshops by Brendon Bussy on June 30, 2012

This coming week I’m going up to Johannesburg to take part in an exhibition at the Bag Factory. It opens on Wednesday night(4th July). And I’ll also be running a workshop on the 7th July (details here).

Sounding Out deals with contemporary music and visual art. A rarity on the South African experimental scene, I’m looking forward to this gathering of sound artists and sound thinking people.

When the show’s curator Kim Gurney approached me in March of this year, I considered a number of ideas which I’ve been experimenting with, but each seemed too noisy. An odd thing for a sound artist to say you might wonder? Well my thinking was that any idea worth pursuing would need to take into consideration the possibility of there being a number of  noisy artists in one room.

So I decided to take a silent approach and create something which could be used to listen with – to the works on the show as well as other sounds in the building.

Eventually I came up with a modified hearing instrument, in some ways similar to my Kone Phones, but durable and much more useful.  I’m very happy with the resulting Ear Shells.

Ear Shells

Here’s me sporting the first model I made.

Me with Ear Shells

The listening experience is something like covering your ears with shells, but my Shells can be tuned by covering and uncovering holes on the back of the ear pieces (for the technical, the Shells are essentially helmholtz resonators with tuneable resonance). Here’s a closer shot which shows the tuneable holes.

View of holes for tuning

In the run up to the show I’ve had the opportunity of testing the Shells in a few contexts, in particular a local school for Learners with Autism. Autism often results in excessive sound sensitivity, and I wondered if the Shells might give a level of noise control to a wearer. I’m not sure of any results yet, but we ended up having loads of fun in the mean time.

Shell Kids

And others have been roped into Ear Shelling. Here’s Masha and a friend trying out the Shells.

Ear Shell induced sound excitement 🙂

A particularly heroic listening pose by designer Andre’ James.

Andre’ listening to his fence with intent

Andre’ of the Object House has been a huge help as a sounding board for developing the Shells.

And here are the Shells just before packing, hung up on their display hangers (they’ll be distributed around the exhibition space). The boards display instructions on how to use the Shells.

A pose’ of Ear Shells

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3 Responses

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  1. […] rocks out on my DIY Segankuru (a Zulu bowed instrument). Christo plays a bass synth whilst wearing Ear Shells. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. […] of the Ear Shell enthusiasts at […]

  3. […] also experimented with devices that change my hearing, designing listening devices such as my Ear Shells which I use to manipulate the frequency response of my ear canals by effectively creating an […]


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