Horizontal axis: time (left to right)
Vertical axis: audible frequency range (20-20k in Hertz)
Colour: acoustic energy scale from silence (black) to 70 dB (yellow)

The excerpt displays the central part (3 minutes) of the piece. At the beginning (shown on the left side) are the species’ frequency niches within the dense, unaltered habitat. The original recording is then progressively filtered out, starting from the low frequencies, with the exception of insects (at around 16K) and inaudible bats. Around the middle, after a descending real-time synthesis, a logarithmic frequency shift of the highest bandwidth brings the inaudible sound gestures of bats (gradually appearing as the highest green dots descending on the right) down to a perceivable area of the spectrum. Then, the integration with various transformed and generated material follows. (© 2010 – David Monacchi)


Working with these ecosystem sound portraits from an artistic perspective, a critical question arises: how to solve the logical contradiction between the perfectly ‘organized soundscapes’ of these ecosystems, which need to be experienced and displayed as they are, and our own drive for creation?

The possible answer generates two more questions: is it possible to learn from primary ecosystems and to use the same laws that have shaped these ancient acoustic environments to compose new music? Is it possible to use compositional tools in new ways to reveal and enhance existing configurations of species? While exploring nature and trying to decode its sonic strategies, I developed a compositional approach to complement sound environments with subtle composition and integrative performance, which I termed “eco-acoustic composition.”



In this eco-acoustic paradigm, all the compositional processes are directly inspired and derived from the internal configurations found in the recorded habitat. The electroacoustic composition techniques (detailed visual analyses, time/frequency-domain dissection in the microcosm, frequency shifts and time stretches, time-lapses in the macrocosm, etc.) are means to communicate and reveal the ecological principles that are concealed in the masses of sound. The niche segregation dynamics, observable in the sonic behaviour of an ecosystem, are some of the most important ecological strategies that explain evolution and which we try to convey through sound-art and music. The profound magnificence of some ecosystems, evident in their balanced sonic complexity, might be understood and experienced across the bridge of aesthetic speculation.

To learn more about the compositional principles and philosophy behind Fragments of Extinction, see this publication.

One example – among others – is the piece Integrated Ecosystem (top-page video excerpt). Here, a proportional and chronological time-lapse of a continuous 9-hour recording, followed by an exploration of the sonic properties of audible and inaudible biophonies (bats and insects), is complemented by a live electroacoustic performer’s hand movements, with invisible sensors driving digital sound synthesis. Through electronic manipulation, the performer explores the ecosystem’s structure, working strictly within available temporal and frequency acoustic niches, opened by the other species’ sonic “languages’.






The precursors of the compositional methods being used today for Fragments of Extinction are contained in:
• CD Paesaggi di Libero Ascolto – Ants Records (Italy) 2005
• CD Prima Amazonia – Wild Sanctuary (California) 2007
• CD Eco-acoustic Compositions – EMF-Media (New York) 2008

Excerpts available (CD Eco-acoustic Compositions):


Stati d’Acqua (excerpt)


Echoes of a Sonic Habitat (excerpt)


Nightingale (excerpt)


Fading Away Whales (excerpt)


Fragments of Extinction (excerpt)



See also the CD booklet here





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