Objektet och Museet: The Sound of Warp Meeting Weft

When I was in Falun the other weekend, we visited Dalarnas Museum to do some brief local research on shirt collars for the Boda folkdräkt I am sewing for my boyfriend. Unfortunately, every shirt was covered up to the chin by the beautiful wool and silk outer clothing, to our disappointment.

We consoled ourselves with their beautiful temporary offering, one of the major exhibitions in the year-long, nationwide centennial celebration of Svenska Hemslöjdsföreningarnas Riksförbund (The National Association of Swedish Handcraft Societies). I hope to go a bit more in depth about the dozens of events occurring around this anniversary in another post, but immediately inspiring this time was the innovation of contemporary artisans using traditional craft to create modern pieces.

"Handfäll", part of a folk dress outfit from Mora, in Dalarna. Made by Kristina Karlsson, Mora. Photo: Dalarnas Museum.

One thing Swedish exhibition designers seem drawn to is using the sound of creation. In this Hemslöjd exhibition, a medley of making was one of the ambient multimedia aspects of the experience, sliding nicely from woodshop to weaving studio and around to various other audible crafts. In space crawling with handwoven textiles and wood carvings, the sounds were fairly congruous and easy to identify; I had a harder time placing the sounds of a busy loom as a backdrop to the exhibition “Woven Dreams of Fashion: from Ripsa to New York” last year. In the latter, the somewhat arhythmic clacking didn’t immediately mesh with my personal weaving experiences and the wall text about the designer’s collaboration with Dior.

In both cases (and in other exhibitions I’ve visited), the recorded noises of a loom at work sounded more like a loom in gentle play with its operator, with muted tones at a relaxed pace. I assume this is to invoke a romantic idea of weaving as a craft, practiced on an old, wooden, human-operated loom in a quiet cabin in the woods.

However, I came upon this video while poking around for more information about Almgrens Sidenväveri (Almgren’s Silk Weaving Mill). If you are game, I hope you’ll close your eyes and just listen first:

What an amazing sound to come out of one loom! Now watch it with your eyes open, because it’s pretty cool to see her shuttle setup and the jacquard punchcards rotating on the right-hand side.

Personally, my reaction was that this type of dramatic and explosive sound was more “real,” a counterpoint to the privileged pace and tone of the background tracks in the mentioned exhibitions. Of course, this is silly–Hemslöjd and Woven Dreams represent two very real aspects of Swedish weaving and handcraft history, albeit the more rose-colored. But severed from the visual action of the weaving, would the sound of the Jacquard loom ever be appropriate to a static exhibition, or would it be difficult to listen to? What would the effect be in a room full of still looms, or behind a show focused on brocades?

Have you been to an exhibition that uses dramatic or even antagonistic, overwhelming or annoying music and sound? What is the difference between sound as backdrop in static exhibitions of things and sound connected to activities presented in interpretive exhibits? Do you feel like you hear similar sound tracks in many exhibitions? I would be very interested in hearing your experiences with exhibition sound(s) that challenged you, please share below!

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1 Comment

  • edgertor July 26, 2012 07.28 pm

    thank you for this, really neat. I’m always on the lookout for interesting work-sound.


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