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greenpoint 03III09
study for EC(h)OLOCATOR

Soundwalk Scores and Notes
(PDF Document)



brooklyn / new york / 03.2003

plainfield / vermont / 05.2003

brattleboro / vermont / 05.2003

toronto / ontario / 05.2003

windsor / ontario / 05.2003

brooklyn / new york / 5.2004

saratoga springs / new york / 10.2004



Treetheater Projects Presents:
EC(h)OLOCATOR: Sounding the Terrain of Home
Canada and the United States
Ongoing Since May 5, 2003


EC(h)OLOCATOR engages with the idea that every place has a unique sonic character that is reflected in the emotional and physical lives of each organism living within its boundaries. By investigating this impact on human thought, emotion and physicality, the project aims to create live radio and performance that awakens the senses, enlivens a connection to place and encourages deeper, more thoughtful modes of listening in the producer and the audience alike.

EC(h)OLOCATOR is a traveling sound project. Live broadcasts are designed for and with independent campus and community radio stations and performance venues. By sharing creative control of the project with community members, radio station staff and producers, composer Michelle Nagai strives to nurture new awareness and collaboration among them. Participants are invited to join in soundwalks, make field recordings and practice composing and sound improvisation.

EC(h)OLOCATOR works to dissolve that civilized tendency to separate ourselves from our environment and our experience. As such, it enables a more complete relationship to the sound that surrounds us.

Artist's Statement

EC(h)OLOCATOR is a project that invokes many of the creative, cultural and ecological queries that I am engaged with. What does it mean to compose with the soundscape and why should anyone do it? What is the value of listening to place? Who can listen? When do we listen? How do we listen? Why do we listen and why don't we listen?

Through this project, I hope to expose and to deepen the associations among thoughts, sensations and emotions that we experience as we move through the sounds of our daily lives. Because the work is made for and within specific communities, the listeners will certainly recognize some of what is played. My role, as an "outsider" ear, unhabituated to the local soundscape, will be to intentionally encourage a new way of experiencing familiar sounds so that any ears that hear can also become ears that listen.

Going back to one of my earlier questions, what IS the value of listening to place? And more to the point here, why does it matter to me, as a composer, that you, as a listener, or you, as a radio station producer, really LISTEN? I don't know that I can answer that fully, or that a single answer even exists for all people but I do know that listening connects us all to each other in ways that are difficult to convey, and, at times, amid the clamor of every day's noise, impossible to hear.

There is a certain rise in Southern Vermont where I can stand and hear birds conversing clear on the other side of the valley, a quarter mile away. At sundown in early May the birds' evening chorus is full of voices. There is so much information in those voices. And there is information in the air between the voices and my ears. As the sound moves from bird to me it changes - gets shaped by the atmosphere through which it passes. My ears, too, get shaped by this. All these subtle changes are happening all around us all the time; in birdsong, in traffic noise, in the checkout line at the supermarket...sound is coming at us from all directions.

Expressed as constant and minute changes in air pressure and vibration on our ears and our bodies, the potential to access information about our external world and comprehend input to our inner self is available to us, as sound, no matter where we go. If we judge the sound as already familiar or unwanted, or if we simply can't hear it, it disappears into a background hum that's easy to ignore. But all the information, all that free knowledge about our cultures, and physical environments and emotional lives, that all disappears into the background too. Listening grounds us in the physical world and opens up access to other social, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

Like bats and whales (and even some humans), listening responsively to our own sounds and those of the world around us helps us to navigate our environment with an information-set full of critical details not available through the other senses.

And so together - listeners, producers and participants - we listen deeply and intentionally. We take in the soundscape and we respond through sound, creating an eco and echo transmission. We navigate, explore and expand our sonic surroundings. In doing so, there is the promise of an emergent collection of beautiful sound events inspired by experience, memory, listening and awareness - sounds that trigger ideas and actions in others, sounds that are whole, expansive, suggestive, provocative, personal, challenging and, more than anything else, sounds that are HEARD.

As a composer who works with soundscapes, I am listening for what moves me. As an acoustic ecologist, I am listening for the relationships between sounds and the environments that generate them. As a being with a deep commitment to the rest of the planet, I am listening for resources to encourage as many other people to listen as carefully and truly as they can.

Technical Details

Each broadcast or performance differs according to the needs and capabilities of the host station or venue, the number of people involved and the nature of field recordings collected in the days prior to the performance. In most instances the performance will include some combination of live-processed field recordings and live mixing of pre-edited material, call-in comments from listeners or audience feedback (where applicable), and live acoustic input.

Over the duration of the project (I'm usually in residence for about a week) we'll go on soundwalks and field recording expeditions and organize group and individual editing sessions - this will form the core of the sound material used in the broadcast. Together we will shape and produce the content of the performance.  We'll also practice Deep Listening© exercises to keep our bodies, voices and ideas moving freely and help us focus on listening to the sounds around us.

<----click that bat...read about echolocation