As a child, were you ever enthralled by the act of cupping your hands over your ears and creating a pattern of noise, silence, noise, silence? This is partially the concept behind “designer, media artist and design educator” Alex Braidwood‘s “Noisolation” headphones. They may look like a steampunk accessory, but function as part art piece, part experiment to mechanically alter the relationship between people and the noise around them in densely populated environments.
It’s common for people to walk around cities or ride subways wearing headphones, listening to music, controlling their environment through sound. In contrast, rather than shutting out the environmental sounds entirely, a user of Noisolation headphones engages in a controlled way with the noise around them. According to Braiwood, “exposure to the noise is structured through a sequence designated by a composer which controls the behavior of the sound-prevention valves. The composer also determines what values are adjustable by the listener through the single knob built into the device.” In essence, Braiwood has invented a new way for a person to make music from their surroundings, while still having some control over what they hear. Watch the videos below for more in-depth displays of how they work. Also, check out Braiwood’s other inventions and research on his website.