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Interfacing Ecologies Lecture Series || Marcus Maeder || 30 March 2022

Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST &
ETHZ Department of Environmental
Systems Science (D-USYS)

Introduction & Moderation: Karmen Franinović

— Marcus Maeder
«Sounding Soil»

Wed 30 March 2022
17.00 – 18.30, followed by a tour in Marcus' lab
Galerie 1, 4.K13

Please note that masks for all attendees are mandatory. Masks will be provided at the entrance.

Sounding Soil

The research field of acoustic ecology has developed strongly in recent years: Acoustic methods in the assessment and monitoring of biodiversity in a landscape or in a specific community are increasingly used, as they allow to study the dynamics in animal populations as well as the human impact on them with little technical and human effort. Acoustic observation methods have already been applied to a wide variety of ecosystems and their soundscapes; the present study is the first to investigate the dynamics of soil fauna biodiversity.

In the research project "Sounding Soil", a cooperation between ETH Zurich (USYS TdLab), ZHdK (Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology ICST), Agroscope (Agroecology and Environment/National Soil Monitoring NABO), WSL (Forest Entomology), and the Biovision Foundation, the soil of a mountain forest, the Pfynwald in Valais, was eavesdropped during two years. In the soundscape of the soil, the researchers found diurnal and seasonal patterns of the sounds produced by the animals in the soil. The acoustically measurable fluctuations in the diversity and activity of soil animals are closely related to the soil microclimate: for example, when the soil warms up in the morning, the activity and diversity of local fauna increases - while in winter it is quiet as animals retreat to deeper layers or go into hibernation.

Soil animals produce a variety of sounds. Not only through movement and feeding, but also by their communication: individual animals use their habitat, the soil, as a transmission medium - much like fauna living above ground use the air or aquatic use water as a medium for their communication sounds. A humming, chirping, vibrating fills the ground with varied and strange sounds. The diversity of these sounds can be measured and correlated to the activity and diversity of the soil fauna: This opens up completely new possibilities for estimating/monitoring soil health in real time based on the acoustic activity of soil animals.

The project Sounding Soil has also produced various art installations that have been exhibited at Zentrum Paul Klee, Bündner Kunstmuseum and HEK Haus der Elektronischen Künste, among others.

Artist Biography

Marcus Maeder is an artist, researcher and composer of electronic music. Maeder studied Fine Arts in Lucerne, Philosophy in Hagen and currently pursues his PhD in Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zürich. Maeder has worked as an editor and producer for the Swiss radio station SRF and has been working as a researcher at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST) of the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK since 2005. He currently is visiting scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Landscape and Snow Research WSL and Fellow at the Institute for Biology at Freie Universität Berlin.

In his research, Maeder is working on ecoacoustic investigations of areas, communities and organisms under the influence of climate change and other environmental issues. He contextualises his artistic and scientific work in the fields of Acoustic and Soundscape Ecology, as well as Artistic Research.

On an invitation by French President François Hollande, Maeder presented his sound art installation trees: Pinus sylvestris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21.

In 2017 Maeder presented his installation AmazonFACE: Ocotea at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington – the same year where he and Roman Zweifel received an honorable mention from the STARTS Prize by the European Commission at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz/Austria for their works under the moniker treelab.

In 2021, Marcus Maeder presented his Installation Silva (commissioned by the Goethe Institute Tallinn and in cooperation with Roman Zweifel) at the Estonian National Museum; Estonia’s President Alar Karis visited the exhibition.

Interfacing Ecologies Lecture Series || Marcus Maeder || 30 March 2022
Photo Credit: Marcus Maeder
Photo Credit: Marcus Maeder