Rain Forests, Loss of Sound and Sound Memories Time to Listen
Our environment – both the natural world and our cultural milieu – is a rich arena of acoustic events. As the world changes, there are also changes to what we hear – soundscapes disappear. Acoustically complex rainforests, an endangered species of bird and an unusual tradition of Swedish music and dance are suggestive examples of the kinds of listening experiences we can expect to lose.
The polyphony of sounds that our ears are overwhelmed by in equatorial rainforests is an expression of the unique biodiversity of these forests and an indication of how particular acoustic niches are created in which each species finds its own waveband and window of opportunity for communication. The extreme threat facing the rainforests is also causing their acoustic diversity to dwindle. Since 1998, composer and ecoacoustician David Monacchi has been documenting the variety of primary habitats in the last refuges in Amazonia, Southeast Asia and Africa. In the process, he has developed ever more sensitive equipment to capture the spatial and rhythmic complexity of the sound world, allowing listeners to enjoy these extraordinary recordings. Monacchi composed Fragments of Extinction using recordings from different regions under threat of destruction. Meanwhile, Borneo is an extract from a completely unedited recording made in an area of rainforest. The recording allows us to hear the sound niches and cycles of birds, amphibians and insects, which are coordinated and distinct from one another – the outcome of evolutionary processes operating within an ecosystem. The two works will be played in an eight-channel version, with Monacchi giving an introductory talk.
The immersive stereophonic sound is interspersed with two intimate violin pieces, focused solo works played by Swedish violinist Karin Hellqvist. In Kristine Tjøgersen’s Prologue and Avian Chatters, we hear the protean song of the Australian superb lyrebird – there are no field recordings of the birdsong, which is imitated instead by the violin. This bird has a special knack for being able to imitate environmental sounds, whether natural or originating under the influence of human culture: from koalas to the tooting of car horns. The singularity of the voice turns it into a reminder and an admonition. The second piece – devised by Karin Hellqvist and created in close collaboration with composer Liza Lim – allows us to participate in the polyphony of memory. It recalls the local tradition of “polska” dancing and fiddle playing in the rural area that Hellqvist comes from, an orally transmitted culture that is inscribed into the violinist’s physical makeup. Lim’s subtle composition gives this memory an artistic form. The rhythm, sound and physicality of the polska shine through the individual instrumental gestures of the violin performance.
David Monacchi: Presentation
David Monacchi: Fragments of Extinction – A Sound Documentary (2020, 16 min), eight-channel sound documentary of virgin forests on three continents
Kristine Tjøgersen: Avian Chatters (2021, 10 min), for solo violin
David Monacchi: Paleoscapes – Borneo 2023 (2023, 21 min), eight-channel unedited recording of virgin forest in Danum Tal, Malaysia
Liza Lim: One and the Other (2022, German premiere, 10 min), for solo violin
Karin Hellqvist: violin
Commission by Swedish Arts Grants Committee
Part of the festival Time to Listen. The Ecological Crisis in Sound and Music