Bug Bytes

1st exhibition: Tree Museum, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Sept. 11–Oct. 27, 2011

When I first began working with analog synthesizers in the late 1970s, I would spend long hours in the studio, exploring the world of sound synthesis, learning about amplitude and frequency modulation, noise filtering, and basically learning how to build electronic sounds from scratch. Waking up the following morning after a long night in the studio, I would often hear bird and insect sounds in the outdoors that sounded a lot like what I was trying to produce in the studio, and being both impressed and amused, I would contemplate the idea that sound synthesis has been around in nature for millennia, and that we were just beginning to understand how to synthesize it, or imitate it electronically. At that time I had the idea of synthesizing fake bird and insect sounds and putting them around in hidden places to fool people into thinking that they were hearing natural sounds, but I never acted on the idea then, being busy with other things.

When Earl Miller invited me to propose a piece for this exhibition at the Tree Museum, I immediately thought about this bug piece, but I still thought of it as a ‘one-liner’ – making sounds that imitate natural sounds in their natural settings in order to fool people. But I played around with a Max/MSP/ppooll software synthesizer patch for a little while, and came up with about 20 minutes of very subjectively-judged insect/frog/bird sounds that are now playing back concealed in this juniper bush. My apologies if I have tricked you into thinking that you have just heard the call of the very rare ‘Muskoka Tree Frog’.

©Gordon Monahan 2011