synesthesia – a visual imagination of sound

Pedestrian tunnels in our city have a very unique role. Besides allowing people to travel conveniently, the soundscape of each tunnel has its own qualities due to its location and structure. I used hand drawings to express the visual imagination that was triggered by sounds in   pedestrian tunnels, and I hope to depict sound in a way that does not involve audio recording.

I have made sketches of four tunnel soundscapes located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Ngau Tau Kok, Shau Kei Wan and Choi Hung. These tunnels are also part of my memories as I have been there before. When I went to each tunnel, I walked through all of it to find out its structure, then I made recordings at a fixed point for my own reference. As I listen to the soundscape consciously, I instinctively sketched out what I was hearing on the spot by using various lines and dots to represent different sound elements. After I left the tunnel, I listened to the recordings to finalize the composition of each piece, and to visualize my impression of sound in terms of space and proportion. Although the recordings are flattened compared to the actual soundscapes, they help me recall the feelings I had on-site. Finally I have finished these four drawings after trying different compositions.

In a crowded tunnel, all kinds of sound reflect in the cylindrical structure, and the soundscape is blended into a “soundwall” as opposed to the distinct audible layers from ground level, which also gives “overground/ underground” an acoustic meaning. When the pedestrians are sparse, the micro-sounds that usually can’t be heard are more prominent as the sounds are transmitted easily along tunnels, such as the sound of clothes swishing against each other while people are walking, and the crisp clinging of metal zip pullers on their bags and jackets. When I’m listening in the tunnels, I put all of my focus into the sound and the visual imagination that it brings; and to me, while the drawings are to explore the visual possibilities of interpreting sound, it is also a practice that leads to peace of mind.





1_a 1_b

Tsim Sha Tsui / 尖沙咀

2_a 2_b

Ngau Tau Kok / 牛頭角

3_a 3_b

Choi Hung / 彩虹

4_a 4_b

Shau Kei Wan / 筲箕灣


Artist Bio
Jonathan Edwin Lo, a visual communication design graduate from Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design, the guitarist of Dumplin9. His interest in sound comes from music and the love of city, believing that conscious listening can provide better understanding in our lives. Inspired by city soundscapes, he designed the sonictravlog mobile app that combines field-recording and social media, connecting people in a new perspective. He now works as a designer and continues to explore the possibilities between sound and sight.