Sunday, May 12, 2013

Music in Nature

By Alexa Rivera

A rainforest symphony. A cicada concert. The Music in Nature Symposium at Ramapo College grew out of a student’s independent study project.

A music major with an environmental studies minor, Adam Lazor spent a month in Costa Rica studying the sounds of cicadas and birds last summer. When the Feb. 28 symposium began, Lazor took center stage in the Trustees Pavilion and recalled his time studying insect and bird songs.

“The experience was life-changing,” he said.  “Being able to live in a foreign country and study the environment has been a dream come true.”

Lazor, in collaboration with professors at Ramapo College, wanted to showcase this unique project and share this wonderful intersection between music and nature.

"I had read a book called The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause,” he said, “and that really sparked my interest in the topic of sound ecology and the idea of music in nature. … Being a music major and an environmental studies minor, I think it was inevitable that I would be interested in intersecting the two.”

A featured speaker at the event, Michelle Nagai, has been discussing acoustic ecology and the relationship between music and nature for over 15 years. Nagai holds an undergraduate degree with a concentration in music composition and multi-media performance from Bennington College. ­­She is the founding member of the American Society for Acoustic Ecology, and has a teaching certificate from the Deep Listening Institute.

“I want to start today by actually taking a step away from the title of this symposium, music and nature, and frame what I have to say around three themes that are little bit useful to me in terms of my own work,” said Nagai.  “They are sound, place, and relationship.”

Another featured speaker at the symposium, David Rothenberg, author of Why Birds Sing, enthusiastically discussed his contribution to Music in Nature. Rothenberg is a professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.His book Why Birds Sing was turned into a feature length documentary on BBCTV and discusses the making of music with birds.

“When I was visiting the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, wandering to my clarinet and playing along with me was this one bird, the white crested laughing thrush, really got  into it and responded,” said Rothernberg.

Rothenberg brought a piece of this unique collaboration to Ramapo College. During his lecture on making music with insects, whales, and birds, he shared some of the collaborations he composed.

After the speakers were finished with their presentations, Nagai lead a sound walk around campus for students who were interested in understanding in further detail how she composes some of her pieces.

The conclusion of the symposium was an evening concert in the Sharp Theater, with performances by Rothenberg and Lazor, to name a few, on various themes of creating music with nature. 

Alexa Rivera is a senior majoring in Journalism at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Click here for more information on Michelle Nagai 
For further information on David Rothenberg click here

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