Zijlijn / Linea Lateralis

Zijlijn / Linea Lateralis video trailer

In our North Sea, under water, sight is limited, often just a few meters. At most it is about 30 meters. Sound however travels much much further under water. And for this reason it is central to a lot of the marine life, for communication, navigation, foraging and mating. A true sonic world, a language that is mysterious to us, and often beyond comprehension.

However, The North Sea is one of the busiest in the world, almost every inch of it knows some form of human occupation. And therefore the North Sea is also one of the loudest in the world, human sounds blanketing the whole sea floor. Noise from the countless ships, but also drilling, oilrigs, the construction of wind farms, fishing, and fish farms. At the moment researchers are trying to figure out what a normal baseline for background noise could be, and how it might affect wildlife. Some of the research is done with the aim of trying to regulate, and subdue, the human noise in our waters.

Zijlijn @ Hear Here (STUK, Leuven, BE).    Pic by Kristof Vrancken.
Zijlijn @ Hear Here (STUK, Leuven, BE).    Pic by Kristof Vrancken.
Zijlijn @ Concertgebouw Brugge (BE).    Pic by Evelyn Dejonckheere.
Zijlijn @ Hear Here (STUK, Leuven, BE).    Pic by Kristof Vrancken.

Hydrophone recording in Norway. Pic by Anders Bibow Olsen

Zijlijn / Linea Lateralis is an artistic research into the relationship between the biophony (sound made by marine life), and the antropophony (sound springing from human activity). Stijn first made underwater sound recordings along the coast of Belgium, from the Western Scheldt right up to Dunkirk. Then he travelled to Norway to make more recordings in the waters around Bergen, capturing the soundscape at both the southern and northern borders of the North Sea. True to its name, Zijlijn brings these sounds into a lateral structure. 6 speakers on a line play a composition made with the recordings from the North Sea. The row of speakers confront a line of sample containers: nine sample tubes containing seawater from the main recording locations. The installation explores variations in both small and large movements in sound, giving the spectator the choice to come up close or stay at a distance. The spectator is basically his or her own fader, experiencing the composition, and the balance between biophony and antropophony, anew with every new listening position.

The title of the installation, Zijlijn or Linea Lateralis, refers to the organ in certain fish that detects pressure variations in the water, and is connected to their hearing. This linea lateralis evolved from the same proto-organ that our own ears evolved from.

Zijlijn / Linea Lateralis uses a tailored made lateral spatialisation that is best heard in the space. As a teaser, the track below is an excerpt of a stereo rendition of the installation.

Stijn Demeulenaere · Zijlijn stereo Excerpt

Zijlijn / Linea Lateralis was awarded an honourable mention by the Sound Of The Year Awards in its "Composed with Sound" category.

Average background sound levels from natural sources, of which wind is the major source, in 2019. The level of sound is relatively constant over the North Sea with a level of 100 dB. Noise map by the JOMOPANS project.

Average sound levels from both ship and natural sound in 2019. These levels range from 105 dB to 130 dB and are significantly higher than natural noise levels. Noise map by the JOMOPANS project.


Commissioned by Concertgebouw Bruges

Conceived, created & composed by Stijn Demeulenaere

With the help of Kevin Trappeniers, Ioana Mandrescu, Anders Bibow Olsen, Kjetil Høidal, Julien Ortuno, Jan Haelters, Popi Gkikopoulou, Wim Pauwels, Karlien Vanhoonacker, Lieve Demin, Charlotte De Somviele, Eva Welkenhuyzen, Jan De Moor, Jeroen Vanacker, Ana Ascencio, Gilles Helsen, Julie Lillien Porter, Nikki Sheth, Stéfan Piat, Leander Schönweger, Johan Vandermaelen, Jana Winderen, Philip Janssens, Daniel Demoustier, Marie du Chastel, Kristoff Demeulenaere, Luc Emiel Rooman, Rosa Auber-kraft, Lewi Moors, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Jan Seys, the Flanders Marine Institute, the Sea Mammal Research Unit of the Scottish Ocean Institute, Niels Kinneging, JOMOPANS, Marta Picciulin, Antonio Petrizzo, Michol Ghezzo, SOUNDSCAPE, SATURN, Ohme, the Notam Spatial Audio Salon, and the crews at Kunstenwerkplaats VZW, Concertgebouw Brugge, iMAL, STUK, Lydgalleriet Bergen and ZSenne ArtLab. My sincere gratitude to all of you.

Hydrophone recording in Grevelingen, pic by Kevin Trappeniers