The Exploratorium's 'The Great Animal Orchestra' celebrates the animal world with sound

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Immerse yourself in 'The Great Animal Orchestra'
Take a sonic journey around the planet with The Great Animal Orchestra now at the Exploratorium.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Exploratorium's "The Great Animal Orchestra" provides a thought-provoking audiovisual art experience that celebrates science and sound.

"Everything that we know in our culture is from what we see," said Soundscape Ecologist Bernie Krause. "The importance of sound is amplified by the idea that we have to learn to pay some attention to that because it's such an important part of our world."

Krause added, "What's coming to us from the natural world, the soundscapes that are being expressed in the natural world where they still exist, are fundamental to our understanding of a successful life."

The Great Animal Orchestra is a darkened, sound-insulated environment where visitors can take a seat, be still, and take a journey with their ears.

"The first time that I saw this exhibition, I was overwhelmed by the sounds of animals, mammals from around the globe," said Cheryl Hughes, the Director of Public Programs at the Exploratorium.

Bernie Krause has traveled the world recording and studying the sounds of natural habitats for 50 years. During his travels, he has recorded what places and animals sound like, so audiences can gain a better understanding of what types of sounds exist across the globe.

Trained as a musician, Krause found animal vocalizations in the natural world to be akin to musical harmony and orchestral organization. Krause's soundscapes reveal that within any ecosystem, each species has its own acoustic niche and human activities are increasingly silencing these great animal orchestras.

United Visual Artists (UVA) worked with Krause to visualize these recordings as animated spectrograms, which immerse us in the heart of these wild soundscapes. This unique installation makes a plea for preserving the wondrous diversity of the animal world.

"This work was commissioned in 2016 for an exhibition in Paris by the Cartier Foundation," said Bach. "They brought together Bernie Krause with United Visual Artists to create an immersive environment that celebrates these ecological landscapes that Bernie recorded."

The installation is now at the Exploratorium where you can listen to seven soundscapes.

"Each one is about 12 minutes in length. It's wonderful to hear them all," said Bach. "What you begin to realize is how complex and beautiful the natural world is...that helps you develop your appreciation for the complexity and the fragility of our natural world."

The immersive audiovisual art experience celebrates the animal world and makes a plea for preserving it.

"This installation was great for all ages, and we will experience it differently based on our own life experiences," said Hughes. "We will all understand it through our own context and hopefully walk away with a better sense of the biology and the ecology of our ecosystems and the globe."

The Great Animal Orchestra is on view now through Oct. 15. Learn more here.

Learn more about the Fondation Cartier's GAO exhibition here.