Villa Murmurs was inspired by pioneering volcanologist Frank Alvord Perret, who invented “geophones” to listen to the earth’s subterranean rumblings. One of the volcanoes that Perret studied was Mount Vesuvius, which erupted and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The archeological site of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum served as the architectural inspiration for the Getty Villa.
Mann invented a listening device called the "histophone," which she designed to amplify the whispers of history at the Getty Villa. The histophone is composed of a cast of Mann's hand cupping her right ear. Histophones can also serve as speaking devices, magnifying an individual's voice while simultaneously covering her or his mouth. During Villa Murmurs Mann lead participants to detect real and imagined murmurs of history in locations around the Getty Villa.