Photo by Alyce Santoro

As a child, Alyce Santoro sat on her family’s sailboat and watched the telltales, or wind indicators, that her father had cut from old audio cassette tapes. Alyce gauged the wind and navigated by the durable strands. As they snapped, she also thought she could hear the music on them: Cat Stevens, Beethoven, and the Beatles.

Later, inspired by Tibetan prayer flags, Santoro decided to make flags using old cassette tape. She first recorded rare sonic moments of the wind, water, birds, and human music, calling the collection The Sounds of (1/2)Life. After recording, she knit the tape into a wide-looping fabric, first by hand, and then on a Jacquard loom. The resulting denimlike fabric was strong, utilitarian, and beautiful.

While Santoro didn’t consider the acoustic nature of the fabric, audiophiles were entranced by its ability to play back distorted versions of her recordings when rubbed with a tape head. The fabric also attracted attention within the textile industry. Santoro has licensed Sonic Fabric, and though it will be produced for high-end upholstery and wall coverings, it will still hold the recorded sounds of water, wind, and life — the telltale soundtrack Santoro has heard since childhood.