In search of perfect sound: The UK’s largest audio loudspeaker goes on display in London





Science Museum to host artist Aleksander Kolkowski’s 27ft-long horn.

While we can all dispassionately agree that its an astonishing luxury to be able to access large swathes of recorded music history on the internet at the press of a button, there is something undeniably fascinating about a more humdrum time when recorded music itself was a luxury, its properties concealed mysteriously within physical objects, whether vinyl records, cassettes, or booming from monolithic speakers.

Capturing the essence of that experience, violinist and sound artist Aleksander Kolkowski has, with the help of the Science Museum, rebuilt the ‘Denman horn’, a 27ft-long acoustic loudspeaker that was a fixture of the museum in the 1930’s. Speaking to composer Christopher Fox for The Guardian, Kolkowski said: “I saw my colleagues playing with laptops and I wanted to do something else,” specifically to create music “influenced by post-1945 electronic music but using pre-electric technology”.

exponential horn

Opening on 20th May, the colossal installation will be the centre-piece of a wide-reaching programme of sound art, audio demonstrations, live broadcasts and collaborations with radio stations including Resonance FM and BBC Radio 3.

Originally conceived by the Science Museum’s Roderick Denman in 1929, the horn, which opens from just 4 sq cm to a gaping 2.15 sq ft mouth, was designed to reproduce the largest sound range possible, and this is something Kolkowski has sought to reproduce, talking up the “incredible” and “almost three-dimensional” sound in front of the horn that “changes drmataically” once your take a few steps back.

exponential horn 3

The Exponential Horn: In Search of Perfect Sound opens on 20th May at London’s Science Museum. You can find out more about the installation here and read Christopher Fox’s full eulogy on the appeal of analogue sound carriers in The Guardian here.

The search for prefect sound is also something which preoccupies the work of the world’s foremost mastering engineers, three of whom we met with recently to discuss the lost art of vinyl mastering. Watch the short film here.