Listening to Suspended Sounds

Produced by
Electronic Music Foundation

Ear to the Earth 2006
Suspended Sounds

Thursday & Friday, October 13-14
3ld Art & Technology Center
Greenwich Street

In collaboration with Arup Acoustics, a global leader in architectural sound, EMF produced an immersive environment of sounds from extinct, endangered, and threatened species, including birds and animals that you may or will never hear again. The environment, installed in a gallery space at 3LD Art & Technology Center.

The Scenes of Suspended Sounds

Aleksei R. Stevens
Scene 1: North America 1
The sounds used in Scene 1 are the Dusky Seaside Sparrow (extinct), Bachman's Warbler (extinct), Cozumel Thrasher (critically endangered), Northern Spotted Owl (endangered), Whooping Crane (endangered), and Least Bell's Vireo (threatened).

Bachman's Warbler; Northern Spotted Owl; Whooping Crane; Least Bell's Vireo

Joan La Barbara
Scene 2: Australia & the South Pacific
The sounds used in Scene 2 are the Helmetted Hornbill (endangered), Kagu (endangered), Mariana Crow (endangered), Micronesian Kingfisher (endangered), Micronesian Megapode (endangered), and Guam Rail (extinct in the wild).

Helmetted Hornbill; Kagu; Mariana Crow; Micronesian Megapode; Guam Rail.

Alvin Curran
Scene 3: East Asia
The sounds used in Scene 3 are the Probiscus Monkey (endangered) and Rothchild's Myna (endangered).

Probiscus Monkey

Rama Gottfried
Scene 4: Hawaii 1
The sounds used in Scene 4 are the Akiapolaau (endangered), Newell's Sheerwater (threatened), Hawaiian Crow (extinct in the wild), Crested Honeycreeper (endangered), Large Kauai Thrush (endangered), Hawaiian Petrel (threatened), and Nihoa Millerbird (critically endangered).

Akiapolaau; Hawaiian Crow; Crested Honeycreeper; Hawaiian Petrel; Nihoa Millerbird

Aleksei R. Stevens
Scene 5: Central & South America
The sounds used in Scene 5 are the White-winged Guan (endangered), White-necked Crow (threatened), Giant Otter (endangered), Resplendent Quetzal (threatened), Red Siskin (endangered), Spider Monkey (critically endangered), Mantled Howler Monkey (concern), Jaguarundi (concern), and Razor-billed Curassow (endangered).

White-winged Guan; Resplendent Quetzal; Red Siskin; Spider Monkey; Jaguarundi; Razor-billed Curassow

Joan La Barbara
Scene 6: Oceana 1
The sounds used in Scene 6 are the Bowhead Whale (threatened) & seals, Finback Whale (endangered), Gray Whale (threatened), Humpback Whale (threatened), and Right Whale (endangered).

Bowhead Whale; Finback Whale; Gray Whale; Humpback Whale; Right Whale

Joel Chadabe
Scene 7: Kauai 'O'o (extinct)

Kauai 'O'o

Aleksei R. Stevens
Scene 8: North America 2
The sounds used in Scene 8 are the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (critically endangered), Audubon's Crested Caracara (threatened), Bald Eagle (concern), Houston Toad (endangered), Northern Spotted Owl (endangered), Harpy Eagle (concern), and California Gnatcatcher (threatened).

Ivory-billed Woodpecker; Audubon's Crested Caracar; Bald Eagle; Houston Toad; Harpy Eagle

Joel Chadabe & Aleksei R. Stevens
Scene 9: Oceana 2
The sounds used in Scene 9 are the Blue Whale (endangered), Finback Whale (endangered), and Bowhead Whale (threatened).

Blue Whale

Joan La Barbara
Scene 10: Africa
The sounds used in Scene 10 are the Mountain Gorilla (endangered), Indri (endangered), Chimpanzee (endangered), and Leopard (concern).

Mountain Gorilla; Indri; Chimpanzee

Joel Chadabe
Scene 11: Kauai 'O'o (reprise)

Kauai 'O'o


In collaboration with Arup Acoustics, a global leader in architectural sound, EMF produced an immersive environment of sounds from extinct, endangered, and threatened species, including birds and animals that you may or will never hear again. The environment, installed in a gallery space at 3LD Art & Technology Center, was open to the public during the last few days and evenings of the festival.

Many organizations and individuals supported the project by contributing ideas, research, organizational skills, musical composition, and/or audio processing. New York City Audubon provided advice. The sounds were provided by Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, edited by Joel Chadabe, and organized by Aleksei Stevens into regions including North America, Australia and South Pacific, Oceana, East Asia, Hawaii, Central and South America, and Africa.

Seva at Soundcurrent Mastering contributed audio processing and noise reduction. Charles Morrow Productions provided equipment for the installation and shared concepts of 3D sound. Morton Subotnick contributed important compositional ideas. The composers that arranged the sounds into short 8-track compositions were Joan La Barbara, Joel Chadabe, Alvin Curran, David Monacchi, Aleksei Stevens, and Rama Gottfried.

Joan La Barbara writes: "As I worked with the sounds of these now extinct or endangered animals and birds, the depth of the poignancy of the situation was almost overwhelming. I felt as if I were breathing life into beings that no longer exist. With very few exceptions, I chose not to electronically modify their voices but to sometimes fragment and repeat portions of the sounds, amplifying their beauty by repetition, applying a microscope to the sound and perhaps a zoom lens to broaden and intensify them."

To present the sounds in a concert format, Alban Bassuet, Senior Acoustics Consultant at Arup Acoustics, used the Arup SoundLab to design an immersive 3-dimensional sound space ...

Bassuet writes: "We are constantly decoding the world around us through our highly developed multi-sensory system. Particularly through the use of sound in our daily life, our brain constantly decode information about where sound objects are located, what they are, their state, and how far away they are. After thousands of years of evolution, hearing has created deep connections with our neural system. Hearing connects with our primary animal instincts, for example the feeling of danger - "Is the lion behind me?" - or the parental instinct - "Is my baby crying?" - or defense of our territory, and even mating.

"But sound also addresses other parts of our brain, such as the feeling of relaxation; and, as some say, sound accesses the 'soul' more than other senses in our body, as illustrated by the extended use of music across cultures ... And because of our hearing sensitivity and complexity, composing sound in 3D offers infinite variations in depth of field and source localizations which amount to a wide range of resources for sound art creation.

For more, read Bassuet's article at

Aleksei Stevens played a key role in researching and gathering the sounds for Suspended Sounds. He writes: "It was certainly fascinating, but researching Suspended Sounds was also an emotional experience in that I was researching the disappearance of animals. Why do species disappear? By far the most common threat, which came up repeatedly, in all parts of the world, was loss of habitat. The logging of old growth forests, the development of marshlands, in one odd case the prevention of wildfires -- many human actions have led to loss of habitat for a number of species. Read more about Stevens's experience working on the installation.