The Extinction Project (2017)
Conceived and executed while a member of the Rolling Ryot spatial sound collective. Created and performed in collaboration with Barna Kantor and Lyman Hardy III. This project was generously supported by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division and Big Medium.
We can no longer count on the once-predictable seasonal dawn and dusk choruses of frogs, toads and birds. Decimated populations and irregular cycles of spring rains lead to dry and creek beds that cannot sustain amphibians. A lack of natural brush fires and historic bison grazing patterns alters a habitat suited for a narrowly adapted species of charismatic bird, the Attwater Prairie Chicken.
This project seeks to amplify awareness of the plight of so many endangered species around the world, Texas is no exception to the patterns of species decline. A bike-powered 1000-watt mobile quadraphonic loudspeaker system was designed and built to broadcast sounds of endangered ecosystems and the species that populate them into the ears of unsuspecting suburban Austin citizens.
Performances featured the wheeled quadraphonic system playing original compositions based on field recordings of these animals. Prerecorded bed tracks were accompanied by improvisations from the riders.
Rolling Ryot sponsored a residency for sound artist Patrick Mathews-Halmrast who came to Austin to compose and perform using the quadraphonic bike platform.
Patrick's artist statement:
"In the spring of 2018 I made contact with Rolling Ryot. I was asked to compose a series of environmentally themed sound pieces in support of bringing often overlooked environmental issues of importance into the public consciousness. I set out to compose a suite of digital soundscapes to be presented in Austin, Texas during a week of multiple rides through the city using their quadrophonic mobile loudspeaker and bicycle platform. Water being a central issue in my work and life over many years, I began making recordings and constructing movements for these performances.
From chlorinated tap water sources in New York City, to humanized fountains and the gulf coast of Florida, to bath tub faucets and the fresh-crunch sounds of frozen snow in Minnesota I began making field recordings and generating material that might bring the listener on a journey through a world filled with water and light.
The first movement begins at the surface. From this planar expanse you begin to descend below. Deeper and deeper until you reach what you sense to be the bottom of the sea. It is, indeed, the floor of an ocean, but this one is dry. A desert. You begin to swirl your way through. Across cacti and tumbleweed. Shifting sand dunes of dry. This place here is now absent of water and the listener begins to die…if only for a drink.
As you press on and the sun beats down it becomes human again – that mirage in the distance. An oasis. A garden of water and the third movement inspired by the Villa d’Este outside of Tivoli, Rome, Italy.
You enter the garden and a long overdue releasing of waters occurs on a grandly aggregated scale. You are here, now, and they overwhelm with their noise and beauty, not needing to state more than their name.
The third movement takes you wherever it is you need to go, only making sure water is present and near. It is a story of life, about what we truly need to survive. And it is my hope that these pieces will cause us to hear what we need to before it is too late.
Custom bike carriages
Field recordings, synthesizers, and effects
photos by Neal Johnson, Barna Kantor