Introduction: Listening Glasses

About: Chris is an artist who works in sound installation, composition, performance, and electronic music. He has presented work at the Walker Art Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of C…

Listening Glasses are a tool for the enhanced appreciation of our audible world. Because we live in such a visual world, these glasses will blind you completely in the hopes to open your ears to the vibrant sonic world around you. In short, they are cheap glasses painted over. A simple technology that can lead to a more complex appreciation where you live, acoustically.

Step 1: Buy Some Old Glasses.

It doesn't matter what kind of glasses they are, but stop by your local thrift shop and pick up a pair you like. I prefer big old ones because they A) look really neat B) are cheap and C) will cover your eyes better after we paint them. Just know that they won't do a very good job at being glasses in a traditional sense after we are done with them, so don't use your dad's.

Step 2: Tie It Up + Choose a Color

I like to string up my glasses with a little wire on a stick. This makes them easy to spray paint.* I like to choose white as a base primer, and it provides a nice neutral color for your eyes. I found that neon on the inside makes me kinda anxious, but you might find you listen better with neon yellow on the inside of your glasses! Its open to your experimentation.

*A note on spray paint. I've found that Rustoleum tends to work best when adhering to the unexpected world of plastic and glass you encounter with thrift frames.

Step 3: Paint in a Well Ventilated Area.

I like to do this outside. Apply a light and even coat of spray paint. Add another coat every 10 minutes or so, until the glasses are opaque and completely covered. Each coat doesn't have to be perfect, but keep it light. If you apply too much spray paint at once, the paint will run and drip, and it doesn't look great - although your glasses will still totally blind you successfully with a drippy finish. :)

Make sure to wear a mask so you don't inhale any of the spray paint.

Step 4: Listen

After the glasses have dried, the real work begins.


I suggest finding a comfortable place and taking some time to listen to your environment in the home or workshop.

First Exercise: Listen for five minutes without the glasses. Then listen for five minutes with the glasses on. Make some notes to yourself: How do you perceive your environment differently with or without the use of your eyes? The word to describe this method of listening would be acousmatic, or listening to a sound without a definite source. A sound is only a sound - and you might find your boring sounding environment is really quite surprising.

I like to take these glasses on walks, camping, or when visiting a particularly beautiful place. Don't use them while driving, but do use them for going deeper into your sonic environment, and for personal meditative exploration of our world. Please post new exercises and ideas, questions or comments. I'll do my best to get back!

good luck and good listening,