Acoustic Fabrics: Threads from the Narragansett Bay


Research studio @ RISD Digital + Media, Fall 2021
Multimedia installation @ RISD Nature Lab, December 2021


Solo Project

Skills
→ Creative Coding
→ Interaction Design
→ Exhibition Design

Tools
→ P5.js
→ Adobe Audition, Illustrator
Abstract

Soundscape ecology, or the study of the acoustic relationships between living beings and their environment, teaches us the importance of ambient sound and distinguishing sound from noise. A soundscape is characterized by three types of sound: biophony (sounds from biological sources), geophony (sounds from geological or geophysical sources), and anthrophony (sounds generated by humans). Soundscapes that are dominated by anthrophony are full of auditory clutter, a tangled knot of overlapping noises. Within natural ecosystems is a symphony of biophony and geophony that exists as an articulate conversation. Each species vocalizes at a specific frequency or pitch so as to intelligibly communicate and avoid overlapping with other species' voices, theorized as the acoustic niche hypothesis. As in orchestras, where each instrument plays a unique component of a broader whole, these bio-acoustic niches co-exist in harmony.

These natural orchestrations create a vibrant acoustic fabric that indicates biodiversity and ecosystem health. Absent human noise, natural soundscapes are a different kind of quiet that urges tuning in rather than tuning out, as we are inclined to do with our phones' silent mode, noise-canceling headphones, or white noise machines.

This piece invites you to take the role of conductor of this orchestra of natural and human-produced sounds collected at different sites along the Narragansett Bay. Play around and experiment. Change the volume of different sound snippets and listen, watch for bio-acoustic niches and how they may be affected by the presence of anthrophonic sounds.


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