tuula närhinen

Wing Beats

The Wing Beats is a tribute to the Finnish entomologist Olavi Sotavalta. In a 1952 paper in Nature, he presented the idea of an auditory approach for identifying insect species. Sotavalta was an amateur musician endowed with absolute pitch. His sensitive ear allowed him to pick up the exact pitch of insects’ buzz and to translate the wing stroke frequency into the tonal register of instrumental music.
The installation consists of a tiny “recording studio” made of an empty acrylic display case (14x14x14 cm). The box is placed on a sound card that works as pedestal . A pair of miniature stereo microphones facing against each other were drilled on opposite sides of the booth. The noises produced by insects’ wings and footsteps were edited and (re)composed by the sound artist Tytti Arola into binaural pieces of music. The three- to five-minute-long Wing Beats were looped and played back through headphones while the spectator/listener was presented with an empty Karaoke Booth to look at.

At the Insect Karaoke Happening the Wing Beats soundtrack was played back through loudspeakers and the audience was given simple DIY instruments (thin wine glasses and contact microphones) to join in making music with the insect band.
A map of frequecies of the insect world from Olavi Sotavalta's dissertation The Flight-Tone of Insects (1947)
Tytti Arola listening to her composition in Venice