photo: Jeremy Fleming


The Six Ecoacoustic Quintets (2010) for percussion quintet express elemental human relationships with the environment through music. These pieces express the environmental, physical, mental and spiritual complexities of human-nature dialectics. As humans affect and control the natural environment, the changes we create reflect back onto our species’ behavior, psyche, and imagination. The Six Quintets set up elemental systems of tension that point to this abstraction: Water (ice), Wood (pitch), Stone (sand), Metal (noise), Air (breath), and Skin (bones). These movements progress from the outward material affects of our behavior (melting ice) to our body and breath as material.


Avian Telemetry (2018) was composed for the Furman Percussion Ensemble and the Shi Center for Sustainability as part of a birdsong collaboration between John Quinn (biology), Michele Speitz (English literature), and Omar Carmenates (percussion). The musical composition brings together current research on avian biology, soundscape ecology, romantic-period British poetry, ecoacoustic music, and avant-garde percussion performance. The piece uses various forms of measurement procedures and transliteration devices to explore human-nature interaction through a focus on birdsong. These “telemetries” include field recordings, musical transcriptions of environmental sound, sonifications of scientific data about bird habitat and behavior, and readings of romantic poetry employing mimesis of birdsong. Further, the piece employs second order transliterations, treating each of these modes of telemetry as a source for further remapping. For example, a snare drum quartet plays the iambic pentameter rhythm transcribed from a Charlotte Smith poem about a nightingale, and a keyboard percussion instrument performs a melody mapped onto a sonification of biophonic data while an ensemble of guiros accompanies a sonification of anthropomorphic data. The result is a highly idiosyncratic and varied blend of human mappings of birdsong, covering a wide range of fields and time periods. In this way the musical composition brings diverse disciplines into counterpoint through live percussion performance on stage, creating an evocative space for the contemplation of avian habitat and conservation through music.  — Matthew Burtner



Sonograms provided by Dr. John Quinn



“A Brief Introduction to British Romanticism,” Beth Fraser

“Charlotte Smith: A Brief Biographical History,1749-1806,” Michele Speitz

“John Clare: A Brief Biographical History, 1793-1864” Michele Speitz

“A Selected Compilation of Birdsong in The Poems of Charlotte Smith,” Beth Fraser

“Selected Compilation of Birdsong in John Clare, Major Works” Michele Speitz and Beth Fraser
“Intersections of soundscapes and conservation: Ecologies of sound in naturecultures”, John E. Quinn, Anna J. Markey, Dakota Howard, Sam Crummett, Alec Schindler

“A primer of acoustic analysis for landscape ecologists”, Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera, Bryan C. Pijanowski, Jarrod Doucette, Burak Pekin

“An assessment of noise audibility and sound levels in U.S. National Parks”, Emma Lynch, Damon Joyce, Kurt Fristrup

“Variation in Avian Vocalizations during the Non-Breeding Season in Response to Traffic Noise”, Amy I. Oden, Mary Bomberger Brown, Mark E. Burbach, James R. Brandle, John E. Quinn “:Avian Vocal Production in Noise”, Henrik Brumm and Sue Anne Zollinger


Works Quoted (as sonification of scientific data or spoken poetry):


“The Return of the Nightingale”, Charlotte Smith (1791)

“The Village Minstrel”, John Clare (1821)

“Avian Vocal Production in Noise”, Henrik Brumm, Sue Anne Zollinger (2014)

“Intersections of Soundscapes and Conservation: Ecologies of Sound in Naturecultures,” John E. Quinn, Anna J. Markey, Dakota Howard, Sam Crummett, Alec Schindler (2018) “To a Sky- Lark,”Percy Shelley (1820)

“Birds: Why are ye silent”, John Clare (184x)



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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.

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