LISA SCHONBERG (pattern ecology)

I am a percussionist and composer with a background in entomology and ecology, and am interested in bringing a focus to inconspicuous elements of ecosystems through sound work and music composition, with a focus on insects and their habitats. I attended Dinacon with my collaborator in Pattern Ecology, musician/composer Kristina Dutton.

My focus at Dinacon 2019 was recording hidden sounds – those sounds that humans cannot hear without the aid of technology. How can human opinions on invertebrates be shifted through listening? Can listening encourage us to challenge our assumptions, and change our behaviour and decision-making processes concerning our relations to non-human species? Can it move us towards a biocentric viewpoint? In this time when talk about the ‘environment’ is all over the popular media, I wonder if people are becoming more open to paradigm shifts of this nature.

1. BUILT HIDDEN SOUNDSCAPE: Pipeline Road, Gamboa

At Dinacon I worked on developing a process for constructing synthesized “built” soundscapes of hidden sounds. Built Hidden Soundscape: Pipeline Road, Gamboa is a video of a spectrogram of sounds that cannot be heard by humans without the use of technology. I built a sound work using field recordings I made on Pipeline Road, and synthesized an imagined soundscape represented by the spectrogram. Sounds that are easily heard by human ears are excluded from this soundscape. The Y axis represents frequency and the X axis represents time. This built soundscape includes ultrasonic sounds (above the range of human hearing, played back at lower frequency), substrate-borne vibrations, and otherwise very quiet sounds. I recorded all of the sounds on and around Pipeline Road, with the exception of one recording of a wasp nest, recorded in a field in downtown Gamboa.

Sounds featured, in rough order of appearance:
1. Ultrasonic component of dawn soundscape on Pipeline Road
2. Paper wasp nest on cecropia branch, through substrate
3. Atta (leaf-cutter ant) foraging trail, locomotion sounds
4. Azteca ants on Cecropia tree, locomotion sounds
5. Cicada, ultrasonic component
6. Odontomachus (trap-jaw) ant, stridulation (partially ultrasonic)
7. Labidus (army ant) trail, sounds of locomotion and aggressive behavior
8. Ultrasonic component of dusk soundscape, from canopy, Pipeline Road

2. PATTERN ECOLOGY – with Kristina Dutton

Much of my work at Dinacon was in collaboration with my Pattern Ecology partner Kristina Dutton. We produced two videos and conducted interviews with biologists and artists about the intersection of their practices. In 2018, Pattern Ecology composed a musical score to Rearing Anartia, a 1976 8mm documentary film produced by entomologists Robert Silberglied and Annette Aiello at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island (BCI) research station in Panama. We had the opportunity to visit BCI and to meet with Annette while in Panama, and our work came full-circle. At Dinacon, we worked on material for an eventual video-album in the spirit of Aiello and Silberglied’s efforts to share intimate details of field work and scientific processes with the public. We are embarking on a revision of the Rearing Anartia score with Annette this coming year, to carry out the vision they originally intended for the film.

We completed two short films while in Gamboa. These films feature Kristina’s immersive binaural audio and video recording and my field recording using ultrasonic and substrate-borne techniques. The first video shows workers of a colony of Atta ant species moving across Pipeline Road in Gamboa, and includes sounds of locomotion and stridulation from the ants, and binaural ambient sounds from the trail environment. The second video was filmed while kayaking in the Rio Chagres one afternoon, and features ambient sound, underwater soundscapes, and video. These videos will be combined with ecological insight from the field and components of interviews in our future works.



Myrmecologist Hannah Marti observing stridulation movements of workers of Atta columbica colony while these sounds are being recorded, at her lab at STRI in Gamboa.
Recording flora + fauna + machines in the Rio Chagres

My time at DINACON was truly transformative. I learned so much from the other dinasaurs, whether over meals or on trails. Dedicating ourselves to our practices in tight living quarters created this sort of synergistic creative energy, and it affected my process and my scope of possibilities. Everything started to seem possible, and I am excited.

instagram: @lisaannschonberg | @patternecology | @atta_________
twitter: @schonbergpdx