Discovery Park center plans Soundscape Festival to share Earth's sounds

April 16, 2015  

Bryan Pijanowski

Bryan Pijanowski. (Purdue University File Photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The sounds of a Costa Rican jungle, Sonoran desert, ancient Bornean rainforests and modern compositions will fill Purdue University's Discovery Park on Wednesday (April 22) for the first Earth Day Soundscape Festival.

The free daylong event, in the Mann Hall lobby from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., will celebrate the Earth's rich biodiversity through sounds from all over the world. Using a combination of science and art, the festival will explore Earth's sounds and the emotions that they evoke in the listener.

"These activities will bring together experiences in science, technology, engineering, art and math disciplines – what many call STEAM - and we will use dance, literature, music and art to communicate the science behind the sounds," said Purdue soundscape ecologist Bryan Pijanowski, director of the Center for Global Soundscapes in Discovery Park.

"We will have several performances and interactive activities throughout the day that will appeal to faculty, staff, students and the general public, with the goal to make this an annual Earth Day event. As science informs and art inspires, combining both can transform the way society values nature."

At the Earth Day Soundscape Festival, organized by a team that includes doctoral student Kristen Bellisario and graduate student Holly Mutascio, guests can come and go throughout the day. Highlights include:

* Interactive Art Exhibit: Guests can play musical marimbas (birdsong pitches) to reproduce the sound of a bird. The birdsongs were transcribed by composer and ornithology enthusiast Oliver Messiaen. Stations with iPads will play Messiaen's transcribed birdcalls to guide the user in learning how to recreate the bird song.

* Mobile Soundscapes of Biomes Display: Several stations will be set up for learning about Earth's biomes and their soundscape relevance, as well as a booth for the Record the Earth project.

* Multimedia Visualizations: A multimedia station will project audiovisual loops in the first floor conference room. Included is a 24-minute Joshua Tree Monument composition and soundscape recordings from Borneo, Costa Rica, Sonoran Desert, Denali Alaska and Coastal Maine.

* Plein Air Painting: Painters have been invited to create art pieces during the performances or general soundscapes throughout the festival. Ten art pieces also will be displayed in the space.

* Live musical and dance performances: Theme-based live music and dance will take place in the lobby of Mann Hall. Performances are scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 4-6 p.m.

* Soundscape Ecology Perspectives Lecture: Pijanowski will deliver a talk on soundscapes at 2:30 p.m. in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, Room 121.

The Earth Day Soundscape Festival is a continuation of last year's successful Record the Earth mobile app project led by Pijanowski, who has gained international attention for his efforts to capture soundscapes from citizen scientists. Record the Earth encouraged the general public to join researchers to capture natural sounds and upload them for preservation during Earth Day 2014.

Since then, more than 3,900 natural sounds and counting have been uploaded from 112 countries with the assistance of mobile device apps.

"The Earth Day Soundscape Festival at Purdue is a celebration and sharing of the sounds we collected from around the world," Pijanowski said. "Visitors will have the unique chance to experience and interact with the world's rich soundscape diversity."

In 2014 Pijanowski launched the Center for Global Soundscapes with a mission to preserve the Earth's sounds and highlight their role in alerting scientists to environmental habitat changes. The research center also promotes how natural soundscapes foster a sense of place and an emotional bond between humans and nature.

Some key center projects include the development of science-related K-12 education curriculum materials, a digital IMAX show, an iListen website, the soundscapes ecology vocabulary, and expanding upon the soundscape collection archived by Pijanowski and his research team.

Pijanowski has a library of 1 million natural recordings from sites in Indiana, Costa Rica (La Selva Biological Station), Sonoran Desert (Arizona), Borneo (University of Brunei Darussalam Research Station), Maine (from the Wells National Estuarine Reserve) and elsewhere. Visit to hear the recorded natural sounds.

To launch the Purdue center, Pijanowski has received $3 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, Purdue's Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, Discovery Park, Purdue's Center for the Environment, the Envision Center, Information Technology at Purdue (iTAP) and other partners.

In 2011, Pijanowski and a team of researchers in science, music and psychology launched the Global Sustainable Soundscapes Network with an initial $500,000 grant from the NSF's Coupled Natural-Human Systems Program. Pijanowski and Catherine Guastavino, an associate professor of information studies at McGill University in Montréal, are the project's co-principal investigators.

Purdue's Center for the Environment in Discovery Park funded a seed project in 2006 to support ecological acoustics research at Purdue and to develop a prototype acoustic observation system. This was used to demonstrate the capacity for obtaining acoustic measurements to quantify and interpret biological activity across a landscape.  

Writers: Paige Pope, 219-363-2599,

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources: Bryan Pijanowski, 765-496-2215,

Kristen Bellisario,

Holly Mutascio,

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

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