Normally, this is what I think of when I think of speakers.
While these are made of wood and other materials typical of loudspeakers, I don’t notice them except when they stop working. No one bothers to say anything about them aesthetically. They are a sad, but necessary part of my home sound system. Fortunately, there is a whole world of speaker design out there that will surprise you.
My intention for writing this blog post is to show you the amazing speakers that an old friend of my husband’s, Ian Schneller, created. Not only are these speakers beautiful to look at, but they have been written about and praised by audiophiles the world over.
When I met Ian in the early nineties, he was in the legendary Chicago band Shrimp Boat with a few of our other friends. While still a band member, Ian started Specimen Products on Archer Avenue where he made his own guitars and audio equipment. He loved using found materials and incorporated the D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) aesthetic in ways that made everything he did wonderfully odd. Even the horn speakers seen here are made from old newsprint and dryer lint — very Ian. Andrew Bird, the musician, was one of his clients and later they became collaborators in the project Sonic Arboretum. After so many years of working in relative obscurity, it is great to see Ian’s work and genius recognized at last.
Sonic Arboretum is a collaboration between composer / violinist Andrew Bird and sculptor / inventor Ian Schneller. It is a sonic installation consisting of a “forest” of plant-shaped audio horn speakers powered by custom-made tube amplifiers. These speakers and amps serve as a compositional garden for Bird who creates new site-specific compositions that play continuously as visitors meander and follow the music’s lead.Sonic Arboretum debuted at the Guggenheim Museum in 2010 and was exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in December of 2011.
To get into the mind of an audiophile, I suggest the podcast Unbelievablesounds.com. It not only makes the listener understand why this podcaster geeks out about recorded musical sound, but the reviewer also illustrates his words with a collection of music that spans many decades and genres. You will leave your earphones feeling smarter and ready to download old songs you had forgotten and new songs you can’t wait to hear again.