“My father, when I was a kid, created a movie, very well known, which has put the ocean in everybody’s home, called “the silent world” {1955}. While it was pretty silent then, the big difference between the past and today is that we’ve created a lot of noise. I wish we were making music, but we’re not!”

– J.-M. Cousteau, explorer, founder and president of Ocean futures Society

Between January and June 2021, I worked intensively on the sounds of the submarine world. The research work for “Sonic Ocean” was supported by a scholarship from the Musikfonds as part of the NeuStartKultur programme of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. Here is the idea in a nutshell and what I am striving for:

We should assume that there will be a time after Corona. And we have long known that our handling with nature is significantly responsible for the emergence of pandemics. 

When I project myself into the future as a musician and citizen of this world, I don’t see my role in the production of formats that are formally linked to the temporary situation (such as live streaming). My role is to use poetry and new associations to raise awareness of significant issues in this world so that they are not only rationally understood but also felt.

The natural submarine world, which is still little explored and which we think is quiet, is in fact incredibly diverse sonically: echolocation of dolphins, vocalisation of seals, songs of whales. Many animals rely on their hearing to find food, communicate with each other and orient themselves. For decades, however, this acoustic wealth has been massively disturbed by shipping, industrial activities and military sonar.

The beauty and strangeness of the sonic underwater world and the urgency of the problems caused by noise pollution carry great potential for artistic exploration.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this potential during my scholarship and create an artistic concept for a micro-festival. In doing so, I am focusing on making the submarine sound world a sensory experience, both in the positive and the negative. To do this, I drew on the work of scientists and activists and then got into contact with artists and composers. The aim was to shape the scientific input into an artistic perspective and create an informative and poetic programme, combining for example, a sound and light installation, a film screening and lectures and, as a highlight, a concert with world premieres and existing works dedicated to the ocean. This concert will be developed in cooperation with the light artist Laurenz Theinert.

The project should take place in Stuttgart in Autumn 2022. “Sonic Ocean” aims to use art to create knowledge, awareness and empathy for this environmental disturbance so little known to the public.

Thanks to Andreas Dinkelmeyer and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for providing images and input, to Anna Moscrop and the Marine Conservation Research, Anthony D. Hawkins, Slavek Kwi and Peter Toll for their breathtaking recordings and help, Joerg Hildenbrand for designing the project workbook.
Cover image’s copyright: ©NRDC/IFAW