photo by Gui Gomes

photo by Gui Gomes

Ant Acoustics in Amazonas

In August 2017,  I began work on an ongoing research project in the intersection of art, ecology, entomology, bioacoustics, and music.  During my time as an artist in residence with Labverde in the Brazilian Amazon, I made audio recordings of ants and the soundscapes of their habitats. I composed percussion and ambient music based on these recordings, supplemented by observations of the movements and form of the ants and my surroundings. Most of my field research was conducted at Adolpho Ducke Reserve near Manaus, Brazil. Ants are doing so much of the vital work maintaining Amazonian ecosystem functions: herbivory, seed dispersal, predation, decomposition - which are in turn crucial to global climate regulation. By amplifying the sounds of ants perhaps listeners will be able to better relate with them; there is so much disdain among humans for insects, when it should be the opposite. Can listening to ants generate empathy and encourage us to do our part in countering climate change? Myrmecologists Fabricio Baccaro and Erica Valle at Universidad Federal do Amazonas are producing and analyzing spectrograms of my ant recordings and are using the recordings as the start of new research on ant acoustics. I look forward as we continue our collaborative experiment. 

In December 2017, LABVERDE released the 2017 catalog of artist work

The catalog features five of my audio works: demo recordings of 3 new compositions, a live performance of a fourth composition by Leah Bowden for her doctorate recital at the University of California San Diego, and a field recording of a Pheidole species. 

I had the honor of learning and exploring with 14 brilliant artists from many different countries, and I encourage you to read about their work.  

You can download a selection of the catalog featuring my work by clicking here

NOTE: It is best to listen to these recordings in headphones


1. Surface of the Abyss at Ducke: Composed by Lisa Schonberg. Mixed by Anthony Brisson. (Represents passive listening of the dominant sounds of the penetrating diurnal soundscape of Reserva Ducke)
2. Multispecies: Composed by Lisa Schonberg. Mixed by Anthony Brisson. (Composition entirely of ant sounds)
3. Atta : Composed and performed by Lisa Schonberg. Mixed by Anthony Brisson. (Based on recordings of leaf-cutter ants)
4. Terra Firme: Composed by Lisa Schonberg. Performed by Leah Bowden, Shannon O'Brien and Fiona Digney; recorded at the University of California San Diego. (My response to sitting still and closely investigating this same soundscape)
5. Pheidole biconstricta (field recording): recorded by Lisa Schonberg