InReview InReview

Support independent journalism

Adelaide Fringe

Wet Sounds: Swimwear compulsory, goggles recommended

Adelaide Fringe

“Audience must know how to swim,” states the program listing for Wet Sounds. It’s an unusual requirement for a Fringe event, but this is an unusual show – a sound experience that transforms a public pool into an art space.

Comments Print article

“It’s a playful environment,” says London-based artist and curator Joel Cahen, explaining why a pool is a good place to experience sound.

“You are not just a brain sitting in your seat, or walking beside other spectators; it’s a physical activity.

“You are plunging in and out of water creating your own mix of the music, watching and diving above and through underwater performances. It’s another world in there.”

Wet Sounds has been presented in more than 100 pools around the world since 2008, and in March it will come to the Adelaide Aquatic Centre, promising a listening experience unlike anything audiences have heard before. A five-star review in London’s The Guardian newspaper described is as “other-worldly”.

The installation comprises multiple channels of audio: two channels over four speakers surrounding the pool above swimmers, two at ear level for sounds that bounce off the water surface and straight to the ears, and two over five speakers under the surface.

Cahen has composed a fixed piece of music for Wet Sounds which he describes as abstract electronica collaged with rhythmic elements, voice, and object or location recordings. He also adds modulated vocals, analogue synth and an instrumental element.

The intention is that it has a kind of psychoactive effect on listeners.

“It works for me, [it] spins me out, gets me entranced and lost in time,” Cahen says.

“The music aims to evoke an alternative consciousness that changes your inner space and experience of the space around you.

“Some people have a particular message or emotion they want to communicate through their music, or to create music that supports a particular social scene; for me it’s about encouraging altered states of consciousness through sounds.”

Cahen – who is also co-founder of a UK charity that provides music hydrotherapy sessions for people with special needs – says water creates a “weightless 3D zone of movement” which is a bit like being in zero gravity and fully immersed in sound. The sound itself is said to be immediate, crystal-clear and detailed.

There is also a visual element to the Wet Sounds experience, with scuba divers creating “surreal scenes” on the pool floor and interacting with audience members who dive in. In Adelaide the program of underwater performances with be curated by Rosie Sheba from The Dive Shack.

Wet Sounds participants can choose to float in the pool, listening to both over and under-water sounds, or plunge underneath the surface, which Cahen says creates a strong feeling of privacy and being “cocooned in the water”, even when surrounded by other people.

“Sound travels 4.5 times quicker in water than in air because it’s a denser medium, and as a result not only do you lose the directionality of the sound, you actually perceive the sound through your bones and skull, so the sound waves directly vibrate the inner ear.

“This means that underwater you hear sounds as if they’re from inside your head; you can’t shut your ears to it, you just need to surface. In some areas you actually feel the sound waves physically on your body.

“Some people hard of hearing will be able to hear the sounds as well.”

Wet Sounds will be presented at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre from March 1-5 as part of the Fringe Festival. Audience members must know how to swim; swimwear is a must; goggles optional.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.

Donate Here


Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

More Adelaide Fringe stories

Loading next article