Sonic Bed

Built by Craig Helliwell, Sheffield, UK.

Bed appears as a large wooden tank with polished wooden sides, standing 3ft off the ground, the top 9 inches sitting above the height of the mattress, so that the visitor lies within these wooden walls housing the mid+tweeter speakers , and lies on the sub woofers.

Bed dimensions:

5’ 6”(170cm ) x 6’6” (200cm) x 3’(92cm). Supporting speaker rails at 18cm below top of bed height.


  1. Woofa cabinets will be very heavy. Suggested that their boxes are extended so that they sit on the floor as the railing system will not hold them up alone. Especially with up to 6 adult bodies clambering around on top. Also, sides of the wooden bed tank will vibrate so could be leant against by small children or folk sitting on the ground beside bed.
  1. All electronic equipment will be housed securely inside Bed. Only 2 power cables will emerge from it.

The Making of Sonic Bed_London 2005

Proposal to Her Noise. October 2002.

for Kaffe Matthews to make Sonic Bed for which she will compose the work “COME LIE”, made from the electrical activity of the human brain as it experiences pleasure.

Sonic Bed

a warmly darkened space, a large flat bed , pillows, …low to the ground, a neon instruction on a stand reads “COME LIE”.

sit, lie on the bed and a music will appear from beneath you. a sensuous vibrating techno-hymn, that will soothe and relax, then stimulate as it circulates, sometimes thumps and caresses different parts of your body. where/ how you lie will determine what you feel/hear. how many people can be on the bed at once. what do you do?

with a menu of 7 pleasure types to choose from, the listener(s) can select their ride, each listener able to adjust their own pleasure level through a remote control, the experience vibrating through 13 speakers immersed in the sleeping surface beneath each figure. the music emerging through the fabric, defying gravity, perverting time, taking the listener away .

most known for her live and dangerous solo sampling perfomances all over the world, electroacoustic artist kaffe matthews has also been making a growing body of composed works through collaborations with a variety of people, things and processes. (see from working with kites and the weather on an uninhabited island in Scotland, taut wires in the Australian outback, mobile phone communication to a gallery in New York describing a current show in a space for which she was to make a work, a journey through and around Glasgow city centre in a stretch limo with a female chauffeur, she is fast developing her digital processing skills into multispeaker systems, making beautifully clear and precise works, rich and vibrational, now tending towards a sparkling mirrored stillness .

“come lie” will be made through a collaboration with the Biophysics department at Gt.Ormond Street hospital London, where Matthews will have access to research going on with a brain scanner. by putting herself through a series of “pleasure” experiments in the scanner, the electromagnetic radiation produced will be recorded and used to create a compositional system to create the work. the sounds to be sculpted and processed through this system will be the 2 contrasting worlds of (i) the acoustic sounds of the scanning machine and (ii) a collection of samples of the musics most associated with pleasure from the scanner operating and department staff.

the shaping of the 7 sections (the pleasure types) of “come lie” will then be meticulously worked with the type and position of the speakers around the body that matthews designs within sonic bed. this interaction between the music and the site will be an essential part of the compostional process as well as obviously determining the overall success of the work.


Kaffe Matthews expertise is fast developing in a line of sonic furniture since her first sonic armchair made for the Arts Council funded interactive installation PlaceMadeMobile in London and Glasgow in 1997. For this chair she has since made 2 works, played in London, Liverpool, York, Hamburg and Glasgow. In 1999, she was commissioned by the Millenium exhibition “don’t worry” at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, to make her second chair, a luxurious and oversized development of the first, for which she is currently working on a new work, “drop time” to open at Reading Station on oct.29th.

Sonic Bed will provide Kaffe’s first opportunity to work with the listener lying down, the more precise location of speakers, and the possible interaction of the duo on the bed.

Sonic Bed will also enable another opportunity to present a new and maybe unknown-to-many-type of music to a wide and varied audience.

wooden bed frame – 7 foot x 8 foot x 1.75ft
bed cover – lichen green
space carpeted.
Multichannel sound system, soundcard and laptop installed beneath mattress.

A composer works with temporality, with the invisible. “come lie“ will provide Matthews first opportunity to develop and compose with invisible information direct from the body. To compose a music for the body from the electricity of our thoughts.

KM Oct 2002.