Hydrophonia and the Hydrophonia Festival, Barcelona 2010

Hydrophonia is a festival of hydrophone sound art dedicated to raising public awareness of ocean noise.

Environmental Noise Pollution:

Recently, much attention has been paid to noise pollution in our environment. Traffic sounds, construction, machinery, jet noise, etc. all contribute to the pollution we experience everyday – and the ambient level of noise continues to grow worse with each year.

Noise pollution increases our levels of physical and mental stress which in turn causes health problems such as anxiety and hearing loss to name a few. Anthropogenic noise, increasingly difficult to escape, has left very few areas of silence in the world. Gordon Hempton, a sound recordist helping to raise public awareness of this issue, recently authored the book ‘One Square Inch‘  in which he searches for and attempts to protect the vanishing areas of quiet in the world – one square inch at a time.

While this sort of activism is admirable, for many obvious reasons, it still focuses on the affect of noise on humans while inadvertently ignoring the harmful affect on wildlife. In a myopic act of self-reflection, humans seem more concerned with how the sound pollution we’ve created affects our quality of life while turning a deaf ear to the suffering of other species.

Ocean Noise:

Noise not only exists in our environment but also exists in our oceans. Because humans don’t live underwater we’ve developed an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude about the effect noise has on marine life. We’ve come to treat the ocean as a dumping ground for not only our material waste but our sonic waste as well. Little attention is paid to the devastating effects of noise pollution on marine life since humans do not share this underwater habitat with marine life.

The Birth of Hydrophonia:

Director and Curator, Kim Cascone first conceived Hydrophonia in 2008 while developing an interest in building his own hydrophones and recording underwater sound. It was around that time that he discovered other sound artists who shared his interest in hydrophone recording. During his research into hydrophone construction he became aware of the serious impact noise has on life underwater and thought that more people should know about this important issue.

Reuse, Reduce Recycle:

Gianni Pavan, a bio-acoustician and researcher working at CIBRA in Italy has collected hundreds of sound file examples of ocean noise which he kindly shared with me. After listening to these recordings I felt that they could be listened to as sound art if presented within the right framework. Ocean noise is not only a crucial issue affecting the health of our oceans but also serves as a bridge between the worlds of sound art and science. As often is the case, science and art can help inform one another and though cross-polination new knowledge and art work can be obtained. We could help raise the publics awareness to this unseen pollution of our oceans as well as present artwork made from this detritus. Recycling of ocean noise could help provide an aesthetic solution to an ecological problem.

Maiden Voyages:

The first Hydrophonia Festival took place in October 2009 at the Acquario di Genova in Italy. Artists and scientists presented their work regarding ocean noise and hydrophonic

sound art with resounding success. Following on the heels of the Genoa Hydrophonia was the second Hydrophonia Festival, a collaboration with the Storung Festival which is held each year in Barcelona. Lectures on hydrophones and ocean noise followed by an evening of exploratory hydrophonic sound art by a roster of international artists enjoyed a large turnout and hence proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was an avid interest on the part of the public in underwater sound.

The Future of Hydrophonia:

With two Hydrophonia festivals having taken place and a new team in place to organize future festivals, we are ready to undertake our mission: to raise public awareness of the devastating effect that sonic pollution has on our oceans through education and sound art. The Hydrophonia team is currently in negotiations with organizations as far flung as San Sebastian, Spain, Bejing, China and Monterey, California for future events. With a growing concern for the future of our planet they hope to draw attention to ocean noise by presenting bio-acoustic research, sound art performances and hands-on workshops where people can build their own hydrophones. Reclaiming the sonic beauty of the oceans is a huge task that needs the public’s attention and the Hydrophonia team’s hope is that Hydrophonia can help achieve this.


29-30 October 2010

Espai Cultural Caja Madrid

Plaza de Catalunya 9

Barcelona, Spain, 08002

Artists and Speakers

Tomoko Sauvage – Plays singing water bowls using hydrophones in place of microphones to tranduce the sound. Based in Paris, France.

Kim Cascone – Electro-acoustic composer based in San Francisco, California. Director of Hydrophonia.

Lee Patterson – Sound artist who records secret languages of underwater insects and plants. Based in Prestwich, UK.

Enrico Coniglio – Doing hydrophone recordings of the construction taking place on the Venice canal system. Based in Venice, Italy.

Emiliano Zeleda – Currently conducting research into the effect of anthropogenic noise on marine life. Composes electro-acoustic pieces using these sounds as source material. Based in Barcelona, Spain.

Mike Rooke – Conducts research of audio transducers of all types. Makes high quality research grade hydrophones. Based in Helsinki, Finland.

Lars Kinderman –Project manager for PALAOA: PerenniAL Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean, which streams the underwater soundscape of the shelf ice edge in Antarctica.

Gianni Pavan –Professor of “Terrestrial and Marine Bioacoustics” at the University of Pavia, Italy.

Past Hydrophonia Events

Genoa, Italy, October 2009
Aquario di Genova
> Listen to a recording from the event (Kim Cascone)

Barcelona, Spain, April 2010
La Farinera del Clot
> Listen to a recording from the event (Emiliano Zeleda)

General information, press inquiries, ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities: info@hydrophonia.com