Sounds of Europe

December 28th, 2012 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

Really interestingly designed site, bringing together links to artists, groups, events, across Europe.

Sounds of Europe


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David Dunn, tree whisperer? Great artist as scientist story, though!

September 29th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

David Dunn is a longtime friend and colleague to EarthEar here in Santa Fe, and in fact his underwater insect recordings were my first taste of the sounds of the natural world having the potential to be deeply strange and amazing, rather than “just” beautiful. So when he discovered that the bark beetles chewing their way through the piñon pines in the hills of New Mexico were making all sorts of bizarre sounds, and suggested publishing a CD to benefit the Acoustic Ecology Institute, I was all for it.

Since then, the bark beetle inquiry has taken on a life of its own, becoming a perfect expression of David’s longtime conviction that artists can contribute in significant ways to science.  The acoustic behavior and communication of bark beetles was previously unstudied by entomologists, and now he’s being called to consult with scientists studying not only the piñon pine beetle, but also the mountain pine beetles ravaging larger higher-elevation and higher-latitude pines, as well as insect pests of the non-beetle persuasion.

This past week, a long article appeared in several Canadian newspapers, providing the most detailed look yet at David’s beetle odyssey.  It’s an excerpt from a new book by Andrew Nikiforuk, Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests.  The article dubs David “the tree whisperer,” though so far he hasn’t quite figured out how to calm the outbreaks; in fact, the research so far seems to be leading more toward driving beetles crazy than calming them.  But after forgiving the headline writer, we can sink into the article itself, which is the most detailed, entertaining version yet of David’s beetle adventures.

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Bunker soundscapes

August 29th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

Sowers bunkers 1 525

This is super-cool: an ongoing study of the soundscapes of old WWII bunkers!

Check out Nick Sowers’ work here on the Design Observer Places blog, described wonderfully in words and sound.

And some back stories on his personal blog.

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Interviews with six listeners

August 29th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

The sound studies blog Sounding Out! featured brief interviews with six soundscape artists a few months back; I’m just digging this post out of email purgatory….it’s titled Within a Grain of Sand: Our Sonic Environment and Some of Its Shapers.  Well worth a read!

Check it out here.

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Happy Birthday, Murray!

July 14th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

Monday is Murray Schafer’s 78th birthday.  It’s also World Listening Day. Here’s a short interview with Murray Schafer, made during WFAE’s Conference held in Corfu, Greece on Oct. 6th, 2011.

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Central Park noise crackdown: anti-aural delight, or pro-sanctuary?

June 10th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

The New York Times recently hosted a point-counterpoint flurry of opinion about Mayor Bloomberg’s most recent move to reduce noise in the city.  Apparently, street musicians have been shut down more frequently recently, at least in the 5% of the park that’s been designated as “quiet zones.”  One of these areas is near the Bethesda Fountain, where a nearby stone passageway has long been a favored location for musicians, thanks to its resonant acoustics. A local blog recounts the recent decision and its impact on street musicians.

Central park bethesda fountain performers

A Times editorial on June 1 was disgruntled about the new policy:

“Why this more urgent push for silence at the center of this wonderfully boisterous metropolis? Why forbid singing and guitars, even if the tune is not always in harmony with some of the park’s ritzy neighbors? A similar impulse to keep the park tidy has led to rigid limits on demonstrations and political rallies on the park’s Great Lawn. Adrian Benepe, the city’s parks commissioner, said that with Central Park getting 38 million visitors a year, the city is “trying to avert the tragedy of the commons,” where too little regulation destroys a good thing for all. A saxophonist playing at Bethesda Terrace, anewly designated quiet area, could wipe out the gentle sound of the Bethesda Fountain for everyone else.

While that may be true, the new zeal in enforcing the rules seems an odd use of park police….This is New York, a very big noisy place that should not be forced to keep quiet.”

This spurred a flurry of letters, most of which supported the attempt to keep a few areas of the park somewhat free of extraneous human noise-making. Some excerpts:

People visit Central Park for many reasons, but surveys clearly indicate that the most common reason is peace, quiet and relaxation. Many people also enjoy the live music they encounter in the park, but the sound of a horn or a drum should not impinge on visitors who wish to enjoy the sound of birds or water, or to sit in the sun with a good book.

You draw exactly the wrong conclusion. Yes, New York City is a “very big noisy place,” but that is just the reason its residents should be able to have some peaceful, quiet places to escape the noise — without having to leave our city.

One of the great joys of walking through Central Park (and there are so many) is hearing the sound of live music. The Bethesda Fountain, especially on weekends, is a festival of sound where young musicians gather to the delight of visitors to the park. What is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg going to banish next? Talking in the street?

Noise is one of the prime causes of the “tragedy of the commons” in 21st-century America, where too little regulation destroys a good thing for all. Preserving islands of quiet in an otherwise bustling metropolis provides calm and serene places that preserve mental and physical health. There are some places where quiet should be enforced.



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Kickstart 6 field recordists into the Amazon!

March 30th, 2011 · 1 Comment

by Jim Cummings

Franciso Lopez’s annual 2-week workshop in the Amazon offers field recordists an amazing opportunity to both explore the rainforest, and collaborate, learn, and create with a community of peers.  In recent years, the economic stresses we all feel have made it more difficult for sound artists to raise the funds for this unique experience.

This year, there’s a Kickstarter project going, which if successful will fund 6 artists for the trip, and assure that the program continues.  If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s an online platform where entrepreneurs, artists, and others raise funds for worthy projects and product development; in return for your donation, you receive some of the fruits of the enterprise.  In this case, recordings!  Pledges are made now, and the project only proceeds if they meet their funding goal, at which point your pledge is paid out.

Let’s make it happen!

→ 1 CommentCategories: Artists · Mixed / layered / transformed field recordings · Natural soundscapes · Raw field recordings · Work in progress

Resonating Bodies listens to bees

March 6th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

Resonating Bodies is a series of mixed media installations and community outreach projects which focuses on biodiversity of pollinators indigenous to the natural and urban ecosystems of the Greater Toronto Area. The installations illuminate aspects of local biodiversity such as bumblebee colonies and their foraging activities, ultraviolet bee vision, pollinator/plant co-evolution, solitary bee and wasp nesting life/life cycles, and colour-coded DNA barcodes (a novel new technique for species identification pioneered by Canadian researchers

Peebles bee

Audio Bee Booth


The prototype of the audio bee booth, an amplified habitat installation, has been hosted by the Toronto Zoo.  It is home to wild, solitary-dwelling bees.

Click through here to read more about this project, and view videos of the booth in action.



Odes to Solitary Bees

View/hear video poems by Stephen Humphrey and Sarah Peebles.   Macro video with micro audio!

For more info, see or contact sarahpeebles at gmail dot com





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Join Francisco Lopez at 6th annual Amazon recording residency, November 2011

February 7th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

Mamori Sound Project
6th Annual Workshop/Residency for sound artists & composers at Mamori Lake (Amazon, Brazil)
October 2011 / 2 weeks
Conceived and directed by Francisco López


Mamori Sound Project is a 2-week workshop/residency for professional and semi-professional sound artists and composers with previous experience in the area of sound experimentation and field recordings. It takes place at Mamori Lake, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon, and involves theoretical/discussion presentations, field work and studio work. The workshop/residency has a special focus on creative approaches to the work with field recordings, through an extensive exploration of natural sound environments. It does not have a technical character but is instead conceived and directed towards the development and realization of a collective project of sonic creation with the interaction of all participant artists/composers.

[Read more]

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DC Metro escalators as music: remixes coming soon

January 15th, 2011 · No Comments

by Jim Cummings

The Washington Post ran an article this week on the “secret jazz” of escalators that descend into the DC Metro system.  A popup multimedia window lets us listen in to the very different sonorities of five metro station escalators, and a related page from the Post’s music staff invites readers to download the clips and send in a remix; they’ll post their faves after the holiday weekend.

DC metro.png

The piece quotes Emily Thompson:
“There can be aestheticized ways of listening,” says Emily Thompson, a professor at Princeton specializing in the cultural history of sound. “You really are listening for rhythms, consonances or dissonances in a way that allows you to makes cultural sense of your environment . . . I think turning your environment into art is something that anyone can do.”


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