the great animal orchestra

Courtesy of Cartier

Many of Cartier’s pieces explicitly reference animals. Consider the Fauna and Flora collection inspired by nature, or the iconic Panthère watch beloved by It girls. (The panther has been an emblem of the house dating back to its founding in 1914). Keeping that in mind, the latest commission by Fondation Cartier—Cartier’s philanthropic arm dedicated to promoting contemporary art—is a perfect match. Billed as an immersive audio-visual experience, “The Great Animal Orchestra” at Boston’s Peabody Essex Museum features soundscapes of biodiversity across North America, Latin America, Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe recorded by soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause—over 50 percent of which has been lost.

Equal parts alarming and enlightening, the exhibition kicks off in the Amazon rainforest, where the sounds and its biophony, recorded in 1990, can no longer be heard due to increased logging and mining in the region. Next, you’ll hear baboons at the Mungwezi Ranch in Zimbabwe, followed abruptly by birds, coyotes, and mountain lions at Crescent Meadow, a picturesque clearing in California’s Sequoia National Park. Via trippy, ephemeral spectrograms created by United Visual Artists creative director Matt Clark, visitors become deeply engrossed by the ecosystem. (This writer even missed a few breaking news alerts.)

“The Great Animal Orchestra” is an exploration of sound: how we digest it, the ways in which animals express it. It’s also a reminder to sit back and immerse yourself in a remarkable display of wildlife. Below, get a closer look at the exhibition, open until May 22, 2022.

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The seven soundscapes were specially curated to represent the fleetingness of the natural world.

United Visual Artists developed special software that produced animated spectrograms as visual representations of where and when Krause made his recordings (many at remote locations in the early hours).

The KM41 Amazon soundscape features sounds of rare species like tree frogs.

“The work is as much about what you hear as what you don’t hear,” says Krause.

Visitors are encouraged to either sit or lie down to absorb the sounds of nature.

Krause’s recording from Mungwezi Ranch demonstrates what he calls “acoustic niches,” which can only be generated by one particular species in one place at one specific point in time.

The exhibition concludes with a melange of soundscapes from oceans across the world.

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