Singing Darwin

Singing Darwin (2009) is an aural artifact designed in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s seminal work “On the Origin of Species.” The piece can be seen as an aural counterpart to James Turrell’s Pleiades, exploring biodiversity of a self-evolving aural ecosystem and observing subtle chnages at the very edge of perceptibility.

A handcrafted hemispherical speaker capable of projecting sound in all directions is placed on a waist-high pedestal. Its visual design and attention to detail suggests a visual sculpture. The faint aural fabric balancing at the very edge of perceivability invites visitors to study the artifact as closely as possible in hope of attaining elusive clarity. Some visitors may go as far as to get as close as they can to the individual speaker cones, and by doing so defy societal norms, personal instincts, and perhaps even apprehension towards the formidable speaker in fear it may suddenly ramp-up the amplitude and startle them.

Akin to James Turrell’s Pleiades, listeners trying to hopelessly attain a better understanding of the continually evolving aural soundscape may instead fall victims to the suggestive nature of human brain compensating for the lack of concrete information. Consequently, they may walk away thinking they heard voices, sounds of nature, or something else.

The laser-cut ornamental speaker faceplate houses clearly visible power LED, audio and power connectors that, although fully functional, remain suspiciously vacant. Despite having no apparent connections, the speaker continually spuns sporadic aural patterns fueled by the infrastructure hidden in the pedestal below and routed through a hole located underneath the speaker.

The unpredictable nature of the ensuing subtle soundscape lingering on the edge of perceivability and interspersed with silence ultimately results in a fundamentally individualized experience of the installation. Some visitors may miss the aural aspect entirely, while others my fail to observe visual cues, such as vacant connectors. My intent was to leverage such disparate impressions as a catalyst for a rich discourse that may ensue following the experience.


  • Singing Darwin 24-hour performance event, Blacksburg, Virginia, November 23-24, 2009. (premiere)
  • International Computer Music Conference, Huddersfield, England, July 31-August 5, 2011.