An Arousal of Sensation

By September 7, 2014 Daily Pontification, Miscellaneous

Artist Dawn Scarfe’s Listening Glasses sculptural installation invites an invitation to set aside passive hearing for active listening. The sounds captured are hauntingly dreamlike.




Listening Glasses are hollow spheres with a funnel on one side (inserted into the ear) and an opening on the other. Each glass is calibrated to a particular musical tone. If this tone sounds in the surrounding air, the glass resonates and amplifies it.

Scientist Herman von Helmholtz (1821-94) developed glass resonators to help him discern subtle partial tones in the sound of musical instruments. He also used them to listen for music in the sound of his environment, attending to the sound of carriageways, rustling leaves and splashing water. Listening Glasses remembers his work and explores the appeal of finding ‘music’ in the ambient sound of our cities.


“…no perceptions obtained by the senses are merely sensations impressed on our nervous systems. The sensations of our nerves of sense are mere symbols indicating certain external objects, and it is usually only after considerable practice that we acquire the power of drawing correct conclusions from our sensations respecting the corresponding objects.”

On the Physiological Causes of Harmony/Hermann von Helmholtz

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