If walls could talk…would a library have much to say? Find out for yourself at The John Rylands Library. The brainchild of electroacoustic composer Guillaume Dujat, hear the space around you come to life with sound, inspired and created by the building itself. Hear the Library being ‘played’ in a multi-channel electromagnetic sound installation, designed by the ‘electrical veins’ of the library itself. The symphonies behind the tomes and the stones mean you’ll certainly never judge a book by its cover again.

A commission for Manchester Science Festival 2017 in collaboration with the John Rylands library. The 7.1ch sound audio installation explores the hidden sounds within the historic reading room through a variety of specialised microphones: Electromagnetic, Geophone, VLF, Contact, DPA4060. These normally inaudible sounds have been processed and arranged into this 1h multichannel soundscape composition, with the speakers spanning the length of the reading room balcony. As a response to the backlash when opening the library in ‘smoggy Manchester’, the John Rylands was built with electrical lights instead of gas (first public building to do so in Manchester) and built in ventillation for moisture control. Passages from articles, books and technical specifications about the construction of the library with specific focus on the built in electricity (first public building in Manchester to have running electricity) can be heard in part throuout the piece.


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Visitor engagement: (analysis compiled by the John Rylands staff)

  • Visitors to the Library the week that Noisy Library was on: 9,122

  • There was excellent feedback on the installations with a good mix of visitors coming to hear the pieces as it was part of MSF and those who weren’t aware of the festival but enjoyed the installations during their visit.

  • Well received by staff at the Library, they enjoyed the atmosphere the installations created and were engaged with the idea of engaging visitors with NOVARS work.

  • The work has been highlighted as an excellent example of public engagement and has proved fruitful in JRL piloting new ways to engage visitors with research.


Special Thanks:

Nadine Oliver - Narration

Absar Saboor - Narration

Tariq Emam - Narration

Gemma Henderson - John Rylands contact

NOVARS research centre (& students) - Equipment & Setup

LIDAR Panorama