Student Organizes ‘Music In Nature’ Symposium

A Ramapo student hosted "Music in Nature," a unique, all-day event dedicated to the connection between the organic and the acoustic worlds, on Thursday, Feb. 28. The program consisted of different presentations, discussions and workshops, and all culminated in an evening concert in Sharp Theater.

The symposium was the product of an independent study completed by senior Adam Lazor. Lazor, a music major, anthropology minor and environmental studies minor, was inspired to create the program after studying abroad in Costa Rica last summer, where he examined the sounds produced by insects and birds.

A Ramapo press release explained that "the production studies the intersection of music and the natural world through projects that sample and analyze natural sounds directly or that are emulated using advanced technologies."

Lazor credited Ben Levy, director for international education, and Ben Neill, associate professor of music production and industry, for their contributions to the organization and realization of the "Music in Nature" symposium.

The event started at 11 a.m. in the Trustees Pavilion, where several guest speakers presented different topics relating to the relationship between music and the natural world. They explained various ways in which music and nature interact with each other and discussed the possibility of creating music on the basis of natural sounds.

The event also included Michelle Nagai, composer and member of the New York Society of Acoustic Ecology, David Rothenberg, composer, author and naturalist, and Edgardo Arevalo Hernandez, professor at the School of Field Studies in Costa Rica.

Rothenberg studies the sounds produced by birds, whales and insects in various location of the world.

"It's organized, it has form," Rothenberg said of these natural sounds. "Sure this can be noisy and annoying, but it's a beautiful noise, complex noise. At certain times, we love noise."

Rothenberg also emphasized the way people use music to examine the natural world that surrounds them.

"There's so much of animal behavior we don't understand," he said during his presentation in the Pavilion.  

The remainder of the program included a composition, performance and production workshop by King Britt, an electronic music producer. Following the workshop was a sound walk through Ramapo's campus, where Michelle Nagai analyzed different natural sounds from the surrounding environment.

The conclusion of the symposium was the evening concert in Sharp Theater, which featured various musical performances related to the organic world.

The concert opened with the Ramapo Digital Music Ensemble, who performed a piece by Alvin Lucier that included various everyday noises organized into a musical work. Rothenberg and King Britt, who participated in previous parts of the event, also performed at the concert.

Ramapo College professors Neill, Travis Houldcroft, and Seth Cluett also contributed to the performances of the evening concert, as well as Lazor, the mastermind behind the event, who played guitar.