With Heliophone (2015), Aernoudt Jacobs presents an installation which turns sunlight into sound. In order to create this installation, Jacobs researched the ‘photoacoustic principle’ as discovered by Alexander Graham Bell at the end of the 19th century.

The basic principle of Heliophone is simple: energy from the sun is transformed into sound without electronic amplification. In the design, however, Jacobs combines an impressive array of traditional and cutting-edge technologies. The installation follows the trajectory of the sun, catching the sunlight and focusing it, via a parabol- ic lens, onto one point. There, a rotating disk chops the light up into small fragments. A photo-acoustic cell further transforms the light fragments into sound, made audible by a large horn.

Culture Crew was responsible for the technical and mechanical realisation of Heliofoon. We provided a system that is able to accurately track the sun using only one axis of movement and that could operate nearly un-audible lifting the quite heavy components. Custom software running on a small computer calculated the necessary angles from the current location and time. Predefined motions could be triggered at sunrise or sunset.

Photo’s © Joeri Thiry and Culture Crew