The Sounds of Others, 2014

4 synchronised custom built LED displays with dual stereo audio installation. Or as a 2 channel video installation with dual stereo audio.
32:00 mins looped
Overall dimensions of the LED displays; 2 units: 170 × 33 × 26.5 cm and 2 units: 170 × 40 × 64 cm

The Sounds of Others explores unexpected similarities and convergences between the vocalisations and sounds made by different species. Using custom-built software, recordings of animal sounds are sped up or slowed down to locate a similarity with sounds of other unrelated species. The changes in playback speed of this audio are shown numerically along with the name of the animal. As it is sped up, the blue whale’s sound, for example, which is normally inaudible to humans, reveals itself as it gets higher in pitch. At this higher frequency its calls start to resemble the sounds of other animals.

As the speed accelerates to 115 times faster, the whale’s sound becomes short and high pitched, like a bird call. At this point a second speaker starts to play a redshank call. Its pitch and rhythm are extremely close to the sound of the sped up whale. As the whale sound fades away we are left hearing just the redshank call which itself begins to speed up, until it increases to 7.5 times its normal speed (1.00). This is uncannily similar to the sound of an insect. A bush cricket’s stridulation starts to play, it matches the speeded up redshank sound. The cricket’s sounds in turn are slowed down to resemble a tree frog. The tree frog is slowed down to resemble an emu call, which is then compared to a sound a fish makes, and so on. The cycle of slowing and speeding up sounds establishes an unbroken line connecting the voices of 25 species, including humans.

Coates worked with Geoff Sample (Wildlife Sound Recordist) to research this project, and together they listened to over 1,000 species’ calls. The Sounds of Others represents just one example from the many lines of connection between different animals that they located.

Graph designed by Fraser Muggeridge Studio.

Species in order of appearance:

Human Adult - American Alligator - Great Skua - Eurasian Goldfinch - Common Shrew - Eurasian Curlew - White Handed Gibbon - Atlantic Canary - Mexican Free Tailed Bats - Starlings - Human Children - Red Deer - Humpback Whale - Reed Bunting - Weddell Seal - Bittern - Blue Whale - Common Redshank - Roessels Bush Cricket - European Tree Frog - Emu - Squirrelfish - Midshipman (fish) - Killer whale - Sika Deer - Grey Seal Pup - Human Infant

Wildlife sound consultant: Geoff Sample

Software programming by Matthew Olden

Display design and construction by Tom Cecil

Interface programming by Andrew Smith

Technical research by Tim Porter

Original recordings from: Geoff Sample Wildsong, Dr Ian Stirling, Mark McDonald, Reg Genever, John Gordon, Richard Savage, Thomas Wiewandt, Arnoud B. van den Berg and Cecilia A.W. Bosman, Andrew H. Bass, David Stewart Nature Sound, Simon Elliot, Teo Leysson, Roger Ireland, Kyle Turner, Marie Fish and William Mowbray, Avisoft Bioaccoustics, Musikverlag Edition AMPLE, The British Library Sound Archive, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Commissioned by Cape Farewell as part of the Lovelock Art Commission Produced by Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester for Manchester Science Festival.