Sound installation including the Karaoke Booth used for recording



The work is inspired by the Finnish entomologist Olavi Sotavalta, who in a 1952 paper in Nature presented the idea of an auditory approach for identifying insect species.


Sotavalta had the rare gift of absolute pitch. He describes the uses of his heuristic “acoustic method”, and theorises about the subtleties of the wingbeats: how much energy it consumes, and how it varies according to air pressure and body size.


The sound installation is based on reversed binaural audio effect. Audio recordings of flying insects are collected using a pair of stereo microphones faced against each other and placed on opposite sides of the Karaoke Booth (14x14 cm).


The buzz produced by the wings is edited and (re)composed by Tytti Arola into ten swinging Wing Beats. The three minute long pieces are played back through headphones. Arola's musical interpretations of the insect sounds create a surreal experience of an insect buzzing inside a person’s head.


Authors:
Tuula Närhinen
(Visual artist, DFA) UNIARTS, Helsinki
in collaboration with Tytti Arola
(sound artist, composer) AALTO University, Espoo

Insects among us:

WING BEATS -

a Karaoke Booth for Insects

DIARIES OF A SERIAL KILLER

MEMORIAL TO AN EARTH WORM

THE MALAISE TRAP

BACK TO INSECTS FRONT PAGE

Installations

NATURE MORTE

WING BEATS

Winged beings starring at the Karaoke Box

“Similarly, wings didn’t suddenly appear in all their aerodynamic glory. They developed from organs that served another purpose. According to one theory, insect wings evolved millions of years ago from body protrusions on flightless bugs. Bugs with bumps had a larger surface area than those without bumps, and this enabled them to absorb more sunlight and thus stay warmer. In a slow evolutionary process, these solar heaters grew larger. The same structure that was good for maximum sunlight absorption – lots of surface area, little weight – also, by coincidence, gave the insects a bit of a lift when they skipped and jumped. Those with bigger protrusions could skip and jump farther. Some insects started using the things to glide, and from there it was a small step to wings that could actually propel the bug through the air. Next time a mosquito buzzes in your ear, accuse her of unnatural behaviour. If she were well behaved and content with what God gave her, she’d use her wings only as solar panels.”


― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind



Hughes microphone with recorded fly. The same fly whose footstep was amplified by Hughes's carbon microphone in 1878 to make it audible circles between the left and right channels in Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma."


― Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, Stanford University Press, 1999. Quote and image from Kittler, p.102




In the PDF on the right a general map and a systematic list of the frequencies of the insect world scanned from Olavi Sotavalta's dissertation (12.7.1947) entitled The Flight-Tone (Wing-Stroke Frequency) of Insects published in the series Acta Entomologica Fennica