Untangling Noises of Matter

March 2020

Decades of experiments have proved that migratory birds are able to orientate themselves on their migration path using internal compasses guided by the Earth’s magnetic field.

As humans we have had many attempts to mimic birds’ ability to navigate through this sixth sense. From wooden dowsing rods invented in the 16th century to the multipurpose astronomical instrument, the astrolabe that was developed during the rule of the Safavid dynasty. Even to this day tools are being invented that attempt to utilise this hidden landscape of waves and data in order to direct navigation.

When asked how to define the sphere of electromagnetics, designer and researcher Louis Braddock Clarke states that “in an aspect it is related to being a global structure. The relation to a sphere is therefore an attempt to focus on a spatial theory… it is really about an access point to a sphere of different knowledge”. The sphere of electromagnetics is the main object of Braddock Clarke’s Untangling Noises of Matter research project. The work was presented last year at – amongst other locations – Dutch Design Week, Winchester School of Art (UK) and Macau Design Centre (China). Braddock Clarke wanted to find a way to make the geography of electromagnetics common knowledge, and its landscape accessible but not defined. He basically wanted to tap into the way birds navigate the globe and present it to humans, whose sense of electromagnetics is, arguably, non-existent.


Untangling Noises of Matter relies on its Radio Ear*, a computer and the method of transduction (translation of one matter into another) to transform the plethora of data living in this landscape into noise. The noise created has been described by listeners as meditative, overbearing and mystical, whilst Braddock Clarke himself deems it highly addictive. The audio produced is just as layered as the landscape it accesses. A sound without defining features (like white noise) and it cannot be quantified or compared and so remains open to the point of view of any individual listener.

During the process of the project Braddock Clarke was guided around Europe by his Radio Ear, visiting specific places at specific times to hear the landscape shifting. Through his travels he developed a new alertness for the spaces he visited. However, it wasn’t until he visited Europe’s largest storage of iron ore in Rotterdam that he really experienced core sounds of information merging.

The location of the iron ore storage was an epicentre of these electromagnetic noises. The space was alive, constantly sustaining itself through the excavation of historical information retained by the iron, the influx of human generated technological data, and other naturally occurring magnetic waves. Yet the noise it produces is singular. Figuratively speaking the various waves forms are like the piano or violin in an orchestra, each with their own attributes but when played together they produce a single melody.

The whole project was an expedition led by Braddock Clarke with assistance from geophysics expert Evert Slob and sound navigator Justin Bennett, amongst others, into this hidden but magically electric landscape. It resulted in a film that visually provides a reference for the sounds produced at the iron ore storage centre. The score for the documentary is determined by the viewer who can opt to experience the tangled symphony of information, or to listen to literature that explains the journey of matter as it is being relocated to another space.

Braddock Clarke’s project, in some way, doesn’t truly untangle these noises of matter in a logical sense; rather, it works to untangle their mystery. His Radio Ear provides an alternative access to the space we might only see represented as telephone masts or antennas. Braddock Clarke is stating that the tangled nature of this invisible landscape of electric matter surrounding us is not something to shy away from. The overload of information floating above, below, and everywhere in-between should be a resource to experience and develop within. He proposes to “introduce the public back into the process of production”.

Electromagnetics, dowsing rods, and Radio Ears have all become the tools of Braddock Clarke’s practice. He, like a migrating bird, is navigating the physical landscape through one that is hidden and invites his audiences to participate with him.

* The Radio Ear converts electromagnetic signals into sonics with regards to its positioning at a specific time and place.

By Emma Singleton

Louis Braddock Clarke operates the Radio Ear scanning for ghostly anomalies on the ground of an iron ore storage space in Massvlakte. Photo: Zuzanna Zgierska
Louis Braddock Clarke operates the Radio Ear scanning for ghostly anomalies on the ground of an iron ore storage
Louis Braddock Clarke operates the Radio Ear scanning for ghostly anomalies on the ground of an iron ore storage
This article appeared in DAM75. Order your personal copy.