Guest post by OSCILLATOR artist, musician, composer, author and philosopher-naturalist David Rothenberg.
Magicicada, a piece by Tessa Farmer and myself, opens at the Science Gallery's new exhibition OSCILLATOR today. It's a sculptural installation made out of live insects, along with a soundtrack containing sounds and stories about one of the world's most remarkable insects, the 17-year cicada, Magicicada septendecim, that has one of the strangest oscillations in natural history.
Millions of these insects appear, only in the Eastern United States, and ONLY once every seventeen years. They spend seventeen years growing slowly underground, preparing to emerge for just three short weeks of life, when they sing, fly, mate, and die.
Why this strange prime number cycle? We don't really know. Once above ground they climb out of their shells, flex their wings, and beging to sing. A strange mournful call, "Phaaaarooah". With millions of them in action one just hears a cool thrum high in the trees, a continuous single rough tone.
That's just the beginning of the story. Come down to the Gallery to hear the rest.
Tessa Farmer with Magicicada
David Rothenberg performs a special free concert on the theme of our current exhibition, OSCILLATOR on Saturday 9th February at 13:15. Accompanied by his trusty saxophone, David will be joined by any singing insects he can find on the day for a very special and unique performance. From singing insects to booming whales and humming synthesizers, from the acoustic to the electronic and back, from the greatest oscillation in the animal world, the cycle of the 17 year cicada, to the whirring frequencies that generate single pitches and tones. Book here.
David Rothenberg is a Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and author, with a special interest in animal sounds as music. His latest book Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science and Evolution dives into the idea of how art is shaped by animals and by us. Rothenberg's next book, Bug Music, comes out in April 2013, along with an album of the same name.
Tessa Farmer is an artist based in London. Her work, made from insect carcasses, plant roots and other found natural materials, comprises hanging installations depicting Boschian battles between insects and tiny winged skeletal humanoids.