Listening to underground worlds

Part experiment, part art project, this project turns the sounds of the earth into an immersive listening experience

MPavilion is an annual, temporary pavilion that can be found in the Queen Victoria Gardens in Melbourne’s CBD. For the 2018 architect Carme Pinós has designed a pavilion that aspires to be ‘a place to experience with all the senses; to establish a sophisticated relationship with nature.’ Inspired by this, SensiLab collaborated with MPavilion for the 2018-19 season to produce an experience that allows people to navigate the acoustic space below MPavilion.

Four hydrophones were buried around the pavilion, each in a slightly environmentally distinct location than the other. These hydrophones detect pressure changes in the earth and feed this information to a central digital audio mixer. Following simple post-production of the audio signals, the sound from these hydrophones was live streamed into a simple 3D virtual environment, which approximates the geography and architecture of the Queen Victoria Gardens.

As well as an online experience, we created a VR version of the installation

The placement of the sound in the virtual world matches its real world location, meaning as the user gently floats above and below the virtual pavilion, they experienced the real-time sounds from beneath the earth fade in and out based on their location and orientation in the virtual world. Explore a version of the installation here with recorded audio.

This project aimed to evoke new ideas around acoustic ecologies and reveal unheard connections to the land and sense of place in which we live. Focusing on sound rather than vision, Big Earth listening allowed you to explore ‘seeing with your ears’.

MPavilion 2018 was open to the public from 9 October 2018 to 17 February 2019 in the Queen Victoria Gardens, Southbank Arts Precinct.


Project members

Mike Yeates
Dilpreet Singh
Elliott Wilson
Jon McCormack
Patrick Hutchings