Biophony Research and Development Project

Community Music Wales were very lucky and excited to receive a Research and Development grant from Arts Council of Wales.

In 2013 CMW trialled a project called “Stats in Sound” which aimed to take everyday objects that have the ability to generate data and use it to create music and soundscapes. As an initial project it worked very well and we learned a lot about using sensors to capture data and ended up making plants sing and household goods compose. Using the grant we received from Arts Council of Wales, we wanted to further the techniques we developed on this project to make music using environmental data and we were delighted by the beautiful results of this experimental project in the end!
Our project manager Chris Dawson started by carrying out research into different types of ecology. He attended a course with Sea Watch Foundation to see what types of ecological data was being collected. This included audio, visual, and seeing what wildlife was in British waters. The data provided by Sea watch Foundation formed the majority of the data for the artists to work with.
He then met with ecologist Chris Hatch who explored wider ecological data including Woodlands and Rivers. In addition to this, he explored the huge amount of data collection and various methods of translating and manipulating data. 
We then used the collected data and met with musicians Arts Active musicians James Williams and Helen Woods and Musician Neil White to start by planning the project. James, the composer set about setting the sounds recorded into a score which could be performed by an ensemble. Helen used Sea Watch Foundation statistical data of bottlenose dolphins from 2011 – 2015 to map the music tempo. She then presented the data to Arts Active Gamelan group, who she worked with to compose a piece of music. The number of dolphin sightings, locations and their markings all determined the structure of the piece.
Finally, our song writer Neil used the data from Sea Watch Foundation which showed the migratory patterns of all Cetacean creatures including whales, dolphins and porpoises. He translated the data including numbers of sightings, locations of sightings (Longitude and Latitude) in various different ways including feeding the data into Cubase on the computer to create a score. Each species had its own piece of music, peppered with actual audio recordings of the animals themselves. He also created a score and graphic score to create new music.
Overall these methods produced beautiful, unique music which were engaging and of excellent quality. But most importantly, we discovered that these methods could all be used as a large scale participation project with different groups. 
As a result of the success of this project we decided to use the findings to develop into a full participatory project working with three or more community groups across Wales using the methods we trialled as part of this R&D phase. Therefore, we built the findings into our larger Arts Council of Wales 'Taking Part' project to work with community groups in three parts of Wales with the remit of gathering their own data as well as working with.