Pissarro Sounds

An immersive acoustic experience

Complementing the exhibition Camille Pissarro. The Studio of Modernism, the special feature Pissarro Sounds invites visitors to a novel and enhanced art experience. The artist Moritz Fehr (b. Berlin, 1981) has created a work of sound art: a set of dynamic acoustic spaces sprawling over four galleries that employ so-called binaural synthesis and precise location tracking to envelop the visitors with contemporary sounds of places in which the French Neo-Impressionist used to live and work.

Visitors can participate in this immersive listening experience via headphones that identify and track their position in the exhibition halls. In order to transport the visitors into the various sound spaces and to establish a dialogue with Pissarro's works, the sound that visitors hear refers to locations existing in the real world. Moritz Fehr created field and location recordings during an excursion to the settings of the artist’s life and the scenes he captured in his paintings, including his studio and the church at Éragny-sur-Epte, Paris’s Boulevard Montmartre and the seaport of Le Havre. Based on these recordings, Fehr then composed acoustic spaces that enhance the visitors’ visual impressions with an audible dimension. Each gallery unfolds as a soundscape with its own tenor, embedding the works on view in a richly varied context. Passages from the letters of the artist and his contemporaries, read by the actors Hanns Zischler and Marie Grützke, complement the listening experience.

Available in German, English, and French.

Collaboration with iart and the Basel Academy of Music

Pissarro Sounds is the first public application of the Immersive Audio Guiding System (IAGS), a research project of the Academy of Music, a division of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland; iart studio for media architectures; and Idee & Klang Audio Design, with support from Innosuisse.

Pissarro Sounds is based on an interactive 3D model that incorporates an exact copy of the exhibition rooms. Not unlike a videogame that consists of virtual spaces and objects, the digital twin of the exhibition Camille Pissarro features various objects, sounds, interactions, and trigger zones. This construction forms the core of the Mixed Reality Platform (MxRP) that iart has developed specifically for applications in the museum.

A highly accurate location tracking system records the visitors’ movements in real time and transposes their positions into the 3D model. The tracking system is based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology and integrated into special headsets that are virtually undistinguishable in design and handling from conventional headphones. Each headset receives the signals of UWB transmitters placed throughout the galleries, which let it determine its own position. It is combined with an IMU (inertial measurement unit), which senses the direction in which the user faces, letting the system know not only where a visitor is at any moment but also what he or she is looking at.

All this information is processed in real time and fed into the binaural synthesis, which is designed to take the characteristics of the human ear as well as the acoustic qualities of the space into account. In this way, the sound spaces are created at the very time in which the visitors are moving through the exhibition.