The recordings of Beatrice Harrison and nightingales in the 1920's demonstrate a shift from a limited form of interspecies communication ("If you play it they will come.") toward an appreciation of nature and ambient sounds as sufficient and meaningful in their own right (the poetics of gardens and wars). (Go to feature)
Features, sounds, videos, and interactive music pieces
Play the sounds and try to identify which item matches the sound source. Listen to and learn about glaciers, droning midshipman fish, crop circle sounds, animal mimicry, manatee vocalizations, European starlings, wood bark beetles, windharps and Mexican jumping beans.
Dutch music writer Rene Van Peer presents Shrouds of Air, a survey of "wind music." The art of field recording nature sounds has developed with the availability of recording technology in a similar way to the art of photography when cameras became easily available. What sounds to capture, where to point the microphone and a million other compositional decisions have now become commonplace creative artifacts that may reveal as much about the composer as traditional forms of music making.
Van Peer introduces recordings of wind sounds made by a variety of recordists around the world: Chris Watson, Jonathon Storm, Peter Cusack, Gordon Hempton, Francisco López, Geoff Sample, Hugo Zemp, Akio Suzuki, Scott Smallwood, Alan Lamb, Eric La Casa, and Disinformation (Joe Banks).
How does your garden grow? Bring your plants closer to the computer speakers and play the sound of Sonic Bloom morning and evening. Tell us what happens and check out the interview and video with Sonic Bloom inventor Dan Carlson. In theory, the sound (which is essentially a synthesized version of birdsong), causes the stomata or breathing holes under the leaves to open wider, thus allowing in more carbon dioxide and nutrients. Better results can be obtained by using the proprietary organic foliar nutrient spray that takes advantage of the open breathing holes to feed the plant more effectively.
Using this technique Sonic Bloom often produces yields 700% greater than normal. Carlson's own purple passion vine that typically grows 18 inches is now 1350 feet and growing, earning him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
If you have more pets than plants near the computer, then this one is for them. Composer Robert Moran's Music for Pets is not intended for you, rather your pooch. If they respond, let us know. This radio work was composed in 1977 for West German Radio.
Moran is not the only one who has composed music for non-human audiences. Check out the results of Intuitive Animal Communicator, Dr. Kim Ogden-Avrutik's research into what dogs want to hear, realized by Skip Haynes:
Pioneering composer Kenneth Gaburo (1926-1993) spent years living in the Anza-Borrego Desert of California and wrote Antiphony IX (...A Dot...), a work for orchestra, children and tape, that reflects the ecosystem he found there. Like Mozart trying to get at the syntax of his pet starling's mimicry, Gaburo studied how ecosystems operate and how one can participate in the timeframe of that space. His work uses graphic notation for the orchestra players, dialogue between the tape part and the acoustic instruments, and young children that play toy instruments and choreographed page turns. Taken together, events come and go like desert critters, all with a similar 'fermata' like quality; a sensation of life being suspended, not developing but hovering in the heat haze.
As inventor of compositional linguistics (the use of language as music and music as language) Gaburo wrote a text, LA, for solo reader, a multi-layered word-piece structured in the manner of a musical composition. This text delves into the background philosophy of Antiphony IX and forms an intrinsically connected pairing with it.
Hentracks on Eternity, a wind-powered long-string installation at Burning Man 2002 in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The subtle energies of the wind in this desolate space are enough to drive resonances in wires and tape while performers interact with overtone chanting. This video is to be viewed wearing red-blue 3D anaglyph glasses, available here.
Cannon River Eddies, a performance installation in Northfield, Minnesota, to bring attention to the role of water and the presence of the river in the town center. A variety of interactive sound and visual devices were set up: Teletubies, Gourd Janglers, Camera Obscura, Sewer Organ, and Community Daisy Chain.
This hand-operated bird machine imitates the call of the mourning dove. It was created in 2003 by Minneapolis artist Dean Lucker, and was won at a silent auction that raises money for an organization that rehabilitates injured birds. The uncanny sound is created by two whistles set at different pitches; turning the hand crank activates their attached bellows at the proper intervals.
Beatrice Harrison (b. India, 1892, d. Surrey, UK, 1965) was a leading cellist of her generation, and friend of composers such as Delius and Elgar. She had the habit of playing her cello in the wooded garden of her cottage in Oxted, Surrey, near London. One evening in 1923 she was joined by a nightingale and was so enchanted by the sound that she persuaded Lord Reith, the director of the BBC at the time, to broadcast the cello-nightingale duet on live radio. Accordingly on May 19, 1924 the first ever live outdoor broadcast was arranged. Reith had balked at the idea, complaining that the birds would be prima donnas—costly and unpredictable—and second-hand nature was not what people needed to hear, but went ahead anyway.
They interrupted the Savoy Orphean Saturday evening performance to go to Ms. Harrison playing Elgar, Dvorak, and the Londonderry Air ("Danny Boy"). No birds. The finally fifteen minutes before the end of the broadcast the nightingales started chirping. The BBC returned in subsequent years, even after Harrison moved house in 1936, just to record the birds.
On May 19, 1942, three years into the Second World War, the BBC was back in the same garden planning to broadcast the nightingales (sans cello). But 197 bombers, Wellingtons and Lancasters, began flying overhead on their way to raids in Mannheim and the engineer realized a live broadcast of this event would break security. The recording went ahead anyway since the lines to the BBC were open and a two-sided record was made, the first side with the departing planes, the second with their return (eleven fewer). Play the recording
Taken together these recordings demonstrate a shift from a limited form of interspecies communication ("If you play it they will come.") toward an appreciation of nature and ambient sounds as sufficient and meaningful in their own right (the poetics of gardens and wars).