Art and Science Try a New Dance: The Soundscape Project Brings the Rhythms of Nature to the Stage

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Sonoma State University student dancer Jared Wiltse, one of the creators and dancers of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts & Dance "Soundscape Project."


This season a unique collaboration and cross-disciplinary project engaging Sonoma State University students studying environment studies, engineering science and dance comes to the stage in the form of an original and unique dance piece showcasing the sounds of natural soundscapes.

The sounds of Sonoma State University Nature Preserves play an important role in "Soundscape Project," part of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts & Dance annual fall dance concert. Performances will be presented on campus from Nov. 21 to Nov. 24 at Evert B. Person Theatre, with a free encore performance on Dec. 6 at Weill Hall.

The perfect merger of art and science, the Soundscape Project uniquely blends video and acoustic recordings by world renowned Bioacoustics expert, Dr. Bernie Krause, with a new dance piece choreographed by Christine Cali and Kristen Daley and original music from Jesse Olsen Bay.


galbreath.jpgWith training from naturalist and bioacoustics expert Dr. Bernie Krause, students from Environmental Studies and Planning recorded a diversity of natural and man-made sounds in the field. SSU engineering students archived recorded material and created "best of" recordings to be made available as indoor soundscapes and ambient noise for events and functions.


The recordings were delivered to composer Jesse Olsen Bay who created an original composition designed to encourage exploration of sounds. Choreographers Christine Cali and Kristen Daley and dance students used the original score to explore the sounds and create a new interpretive dance performance.

The "Soundscape Project" was funded in part through the Green Music Center's Academic Integration Grant and the Sonoma County Community Foundation Grant.


Department of Environmental Studies and Planning and Engineering Science students were trained by Krause to use the handheld Samson Zoom H4N recorders and Audition CS6 (Mac) for manipulating and archiving recordings.


Between late May and end of June, recorders were used to sample biophonic, geophonic and anthrophonic sounds in a variety of environments, including Galbreath Wildlands Preserve, Faifield Osborn Preserve and other location in the region, including coastal areas.


"In creating this work, we've deeply explored the sounds, terrain, and stories of the Preserve, in an attempt to say something meaningful about this sacred place."

-Kristen Daley



"For everyone involved, working on this project has changed the way we hear the world. The stillness and subtlety required to really hear these soundscapes is profound. It is challenging to achieve, but deeply rewarding. We are indebted to Dr. Bernie Krause for guiding us towards this way of hearing," said choreographer, Kristen Daley, who also serves as Dept. Chair of the SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts & Dance.


"In creating this work, we've deeply explored the sounds, terrain, and stories of the Preserve, in an attempt to say something meaningful about this sacred place."


During recording, students used standardized protocols including datasheets and vocal data input. Recordings included dawn choruses of bird song, bird song at other times of day, cicadas, crickets and other insects, evening and nocturnal sounds, water, wind and man-made sounds such as footsteps or equipment.


The Fall Dance Concert 2013 presented at Evert B. Person Theatre also features two additional dance pieces. "Crumble," choreographed by Rogelio Lopez with music by Janis Brenner, Theo Bleckman, Meredith Monk and Iva Bittova, is an original piece which explores how one can overcome personal challenges and emotional crisis with the help of family and friends. "It's a Movement," choreographed by Risa Jaroslow with student dancers, explores the development of movement. "It's a Movement," features music by Robert Een and Steve Reich.


For more information about Fall Dance Concert 2013 at Evert B. Person Theatre and the encore performance of "Soundscape Project" at Weill Hall call 707-664-4246 or visit www.sonoma.edu/theatreanddance/productions.


TOP, Student dancer Jared Wiltse, one of the creators and dancers of the "Soundscape Project." Photo courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts & Dance.


MIDDLE, Zachary Beltz (ENSP) collects sound at the Galbreath Preserve.


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