Tipping Points

Tipping Points (2019) is a sound installation that emulates the stable and chaotic behaviours of environmental ecosystems.  It features sounds from field recordings made in Dorset, which are manipulated by the computer to mirror the ways in which ecosystem population densities vary, increasing and decreasing in both predictable and erratic ways.

Installed at Bournemouth Natural Science Society, May 2019
Extract from Tipping Points installation at Bournemouth Natural Science Society, 5 May 2019

The population is represented by the fragments of pitched sound derived from a bird cry, surrounding the listener. As the population steadily increases i.e. a greater density of sound fragments are heard, erratic and chaotic changes become more and more apparent, emulating the kinds of environmental extremes often occurring in nature. Participants are invited to interact with this ecosystem, affecting changes by moving close to the two sensors mounted within the room.

Tipping Points (2019) was first exhibited on 4–5 May at the Musem of Ecoacoustic Phenomena event at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, a commissioned event at the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe (BEAF) 2019 and completed with support from an Art & Science Collaboration Award from Bournemouth University.

The second iteration of Tipping Points was realised for the Sounds from the Gardens event at the Horniman Museum as part of the Being Human Festival 2019. This version additionally featured new field recordings from in and around the Horniman Museum, new bird-call recordings, and developing interactivity.

Tipping Points at the Horniman Museum, November 2019
Speaker view

How does Tipping Points work?

  • Tipping Points sonifies the gradual expansion in population density through a feedback equation
  • As the population density progresses past certain points, more erratic changes begin to occur
  • The system potentially progresses to a state of chaos
  • As participants interact with the sensors, the population density is perturbed
  • The system was built using Max software, distance sensors and an Arduino board

The sound material:

  • Bird calls
  • Ambiences taken from Dorset ecosystems e.g. Arne nature reserve; Brownsea Island