Wild Music Exhibit Explores the Natural Rhythm of Life



Explore the sounds of nature with a visit to the special exhibit, “Wild Music, Sounds & Songs of Life,” at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum from October 5, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

Whales compose, bullfrogs croak in unison, songbirds greet the dawn, and people everywhere sing and dance as a way to express themselves. Visitors to “Wild Music” will explore evidence for the biological origins of music through interactive exhibits and sound experiences.

The exhibit invites guests to explore sound in three immersive environments: The Edge of the Forest, The Ocean Deeps, and the City Center, enhancing their knowledge of natural and synthetic sounds in the three acoustic labs. In The Edge of The Forest, visitors can hunt for sounds of forest creatures and learn about birdsongs and soundscapes.

The Ocean Deeps underwater environment explores the sounds of whales, which resemble human songs in phrasing, rhythm, and variations on basic themes. A hydrophone, used in studying whale songs, can be lowered into a tank of water where it amplifies sounds like a throbbing engine.

In the City Center’s Jamming Room, guests may record a musical memory and watch what others have shared. There is an interactive sound studio that entices visitors to create their own musical composition while singing into the microphone, playing drums, mixing the backing tracks, and experimenting with an assortment of instruments.

A nearby bioacoustics laboratory allows a deeper exploration of sound and song through a series of experiences – with a touchable spectrum analyzer, working models of a human larynx and bird syrinx, and experiments with resonance and source/filter theory.

Throughout the exhibition, dispersed in small niches and showcases, visitors see, hear, and sometimes touch instruments inspired by natural materials and forms. Finally, visitors can enter a small theater where they experience a short film on the power of sound and song across species to help us bond, work together, and to grieve.

The exhibit was composed with the assistance of environmental sound artist Philip Blackburn to create an overall sound composition that is pleasing. The exhibit features tactile experiences, Braille and acoustical labels, and careful attention to the requirements of wheelchair users.

“I am looking forward to hearing and manipulating the nature sounds,” said Kalamazoo Valley Museum Design Assistant Megan Burtzloff. “The images from previous installations show that this is going to be a beautiful exhibit for our eyes as well as our ears.” For a sneak peak or to practice manipulating sound, visit the Wild Music website at http://www.wildmusic.org/.

Wild Music is a production of ASTC, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music, with major funding from the National Science Foundation and additional support from Harman International and NEC Foundation of America.