Amplifying the Tropical Ants (ATTA) and UAU

Ant Acoustics & Soundscapes of Amazonas

photo by Gui Gomes

photo by Gui Gomes

ATTA (Amplifying the Tropical Ants) is a multimedia research project on ant acoustics in the Brazilian Amazon producing results in bioacoustic anaylsis and music composition. I first visited Manaus, Brazil as an artist-in-residence with Labverde in July 2017. On this trip I made preliminary recordings of ant species and their habitats and used these as the basis of several new music compositions. I brought the topic to the attention of myrmecologist Fabricio Baccaro at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas and we have since embarked on a collaborative research project encompassing bioacoustics, behavioral ecology, taxonomy, music composition, and field recording. In 2018 student Erica Valle joined our team and began analysis of our field research. Primatologist/bioacoustician Tainara Sobroza and engineer Anthony Brisson joined the project in 2018. That year we made an expedition to test out field recording methods and established baseline data for a catalog of ant acoustics of the region. Erica is producing and analyzing spectrograms of our ant recordings to examine differences in acoustics across species. In July 2019 we completed our third field season of research, and I look forward as we continue our collaborative work in ecology and art.

UAU is the name for the music and sound work created from this project. The EP UAU: Music for Percussion - Ant Acoustics and Soundscapes of Amazonas is the first collection of music from this work in the intersection of art, ecology, entomology, and bioacoustics. UAU features 5 compositions based on my recordings of ants, the soundscapes of their habitats, and observations of their movement and form. Ants are doing so much of the vital work maintaining tropical rainforest ecosystem functions: herbivory, seed dispersal, predation, decomposition, soil aeration - and their habitats are in turn crucial to global climate regulation. Can listening to ants generate empathy and encourage us to do our part in countering climate change? Can listening to insects remind us how little we know — and that we are not in charge of nature? Can it shift our perspective and encourage us to consider a biocentric viewpoint?

Most of my field research for this EP was conducted at Adolpho Ducke Reserve near Manaus, Brazil. This preserve is becoming increasingly surrounded by urban development, and the new administration’s disdain for environmental protections threatens the very institutions that preserve and protect this area and the wider network of indigenous and biological reserves of Amazonas. Other field work was conducted at Fazenda UFAM, north of Manaus.

The second album of work from this research was composed on my subsequent trips to Amazonas and at my recent residency at the Banff Centre, and will be released in 2020. This work has been supported by Labverde, INPA, ICBEU, UFAM, the Oregon Community Foundation, and the Oregon Arts Commission.

UAU was featured in the Labverde 2017 catalog of artist work
The UAU video, below, has been exhibited in Brooklyn, NY, Manaus (BR), Rio de Janeiro, and Portland, OR.