< Dr. Mark Pilkington » Howzat: An Appeal for Nature (2014)

Acoustic ecology recognizes sound as a complex sounding system evolving in time and space. The way we experience sound affects our behavior and relationship to the environment we inhabit. As a complex ‘entity’, the soundscape presents the listener with significant temporal and spatial variation. Each individual soundscape reveals a unique set of temporal variations that relate both to biological and human rhythms of activities, while spatial variation mainly reflects land-uses in the landscape. The conservation of the soundscape is an integral part of urban and rural infrastructure. Monitoring and decoding sonic activities help us to understand how sound imparts and informs our existence.

As a sound artist, I was invited to take part in an event called Arts for Nature to celebrated the ecological diversity of Atherton Wildlife and Nature Meadow, Lancashire, UK. For my contribution I programmed and performed a piece called Howzat: An Appeal for Nature (2014) an algorithmic sound composition that transformed sound recordings of the surrounding area. Through the act of a live performance I hoped to raise an awareness to the rich diversity of inhabitants residing in this unique soundscape. The sounds were recorded using a mobile Zoom recorder at different locations around the area. Capturing the sounds of fleeting moments as they inadvertently passed me by such as, muffled conversations, barking dogs, cyclist  children playing, a cricket match and the noise of low flying aircraft humming across the sky. Each sound was carefully selected and edited in the studio into shorter fragments to reveal the materiality of the sound. The ability to listen to the sound fragments in isolation freed them from any contextual constraint and thus blurred the  source cause relationship. A process of reduced listening assisted in revealing perceptual responses and altered the meaning beyond the original context. The most frequently used process was the technique of spectral filtering, this allowed me to focus on the rich harmonic and inharmonic properties of the sound. To seek out hidden musical properties within the sound material, such as pitched tones, resonant peaks and textures. Often unwanted noise or artifacts inherent in the recording process gave the sounds a unique character.

The performance took place on-site at Atherton Cricket Club at 15.30 on Monday 25th August 2014. I was positioned on the back of a large container truck with a large PA system and performed for a duration of 15’00. During the performance, I transformed the sound material in real time using a custom built max/MSP algorithm (Figure 1). The ability to directly shape the sound material emitted from the loudspeakers on-site helped to compensate for the lack of room acoustics. The algorithm provided a way to alter the inherent structure of the music codependent to a specific environment. Therefore, questioning and extending the traditional method of music making away from the concert hall.

Below are examples of the sounds used during the performance (to be added soon).

Including a description of how it was produced (to be added soon).


Sketch1 stereo version, format .mp3.

  • artsfornature
  • cCC
  • CCCC
  • CC