Sounds protected

In our collaboration, Jen and I have been considering ways that garments are used to protect the body. The combination of our two materials - metal and fabric - is often seen in armour or in ceremonial wear.


The COVID-19 pandemic has given the idea of protection a different set of resonances. In just a few short months the face mask has become a new cultural icon, and the smell of hand sanitiser is everywhere. I always find water a source of inspiration, and during lockdown I started to listen to the sounds nearest to home. Nearest of all was the sound of me washing my own hands: the protective act which has taken on a new and vital importance.


Thanks to Aural Textile participants Olive and Isabelle, who kindly shared their hand-washing recordings as well, I have been able to combine and compare our soundtracks. I've been struck by the differences when these sounds are visualised.

Spectrograms of three hand-washing soundtracks. The first shows much more blue, the third much more pink and the second is a mix of blue and pink.

The snippets shown in the spectrograms above are five seconds long.

Waveforms of three hand-washing soundtracks

The snippets shown in the waveforms are only one hundredth of a second. If I zoom into the spectrogram to the same extent, the effect of the colour changes is transformed.

The fact that our individual hand-washing patterns are so distinct is ideal for creating a multi-layered weave, so that will be my next exploration.

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