The Sonic Wishing Well is a site-specific installation for The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. It explores and connects the auditory worlds of the common pay phone and a wishing well. Two spaces that are interesting for the secrets they hold and the connection they inspire.

In our technology-rich society there are few anonymous or non-documented communications left, especially ones that occur in outdoor/public spaces. I am fascinated by the fact that both of these environments are usually anonymous and often secretive – the spaces where we imagine mobsters organizing private business or a child wishing their greatest desire into the safety of a deep, watery hole in the ground.

(Perhaps ironically) modern audio technology allows us to re-create the aural worlds of a 45 foot well and a long distance telephone call that can be experienced in real time using audio processing and spatialized sound techniques.

The Sonic Wishing Well installation is two-part:

A curious golden pay phone in one part of the museum rings. Visitors are encouraged to answer the call and follow the prompts to record their wishes for humanity, for their generation, for their country.

On the other side of the museum is a 45-foot tall golden column. Visitors step inside an atypical wishing well experience (entering the bottom of the well instead of peering down from the top), LED’s under a partially transparent floor illuminate a small golden cylinder in the center of the floor. When a coin is dropped into the top of the cylinder sensors trigger the sharing of a wish (pre-recorded at the payphone) which appears to drop through a series of speakers attached to the inside of the well walls.

Visitors may discover either part of the installation or experience both. The hope is that the spaces allow contemplation and reflection, engaging our desire to both connect with other people, and keep a few secrets.