Diálogos Perigosos 1/2


Green Room


The search for a.o. animal sounds

1. History

The 1822 expedition

Between the years 1822 and 1829 the “Langsdorff“ expedition took place in Brazil. By order of Czar Alexander the 1st the German baron Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff went to explore the inlands of Brazil up to the amazon together with scientists and artists from Russia, France and Germany. One of the baron’s many companions was the in 1804 in nice born French painter Hercule Florence. He recorded the landscape, the indigenous people, the vegetation and the animals in drawings and water-colours.

Beside these activities Florence also described the sounds of the environment, for example the different animals. (soundscape)

In 1829 he published his book “Zoophonia“ in which he described his acoustical experiences in words and in a self-developed music-language.

The sound explorer Florence was one of the first men to see the link between “sound“ and music. He participated in a music-conception which was further experienced in the 20st century. (Edgar Varese or the “musique concrete“)

These writings and notes were kept in the academy of sciences in St. Petersburg and could get in public in 1989 after the political opening of the soviet union.

2. Follow up

In April 1995 an expedition followed the traces of Langsdorff. A group of experts from several countries and different art fields tried to work up with their own means the geographical, ethnic, ecological, political, social and cultural changes in Brazil during the past 166 years.

My objective was to see how far the “text sound” (1822-1829) of Florence would differ from the sounds of today and to experience and communicate by musical means the Brazilian culture and society acoustical manifestations of the past and present.


1995 (12′ 01″)
Electronic music

Fotos: an image, a hearing. The sound source, the acoustic negative, is the writing Zoophonia by Hercule Florence (1831), an investigation of the voice of animals.

The nature lover Florence records in this travel diary, without scientific competence or pretension, the animal voices (16 birds, 6 other animals) that he experienced and perceived during the Langsdorff expedition. Florence was an artist who, in his thirst for discovery, set out on the sound paths and realised that the language of animals had not been sufficiently explored.

“Personne n’a encore eu l’idée de faire de la voix des animaux um objet d’etudes et de méditations comme on a fait de tout ce qui les concerne,…… ……mais je dirai eu passant, qu’il ne me paraît pas déplacé de croire que l’observation s’etende un jour jusques la.”

Florence reconstructed his auditory impressions in a specially developed musical notation and in texts, i.e. these entries did not take place at the place of the recording itself. This spatial and temporal distance as well as the entering of new territory are probably responsible for the fact that the melodies of, for example, specific birds in Florence’s scores do not have the same lines that the computer sonograms of today record.

In Fotos I bring the Zoophonia out of museum preservation and reproduce Florence’s sound memories. Fotos reconstructs the Zoophonia and concretises it by making printed material audible, the animal voices also audible in their soundscape, their environment. Fotos translates Florence’s ideas in the following direct and indirect ways:

  1. concrete animal sound
  2. sampled concrete animal sound
  3. synthetic sound (own sound selection
    A. played sampled animal sound (Florence’s score)
    B. composed animal sound (own score)



1995 (21′ 34″)

The sound recordings I made in South America between 1987 and 1994 are combined in the composition Fénix with new, acoustic impressions that were created during the Langsdorff expedition in 1995. It was interesting to see in how far the “Textsound” (1822-1829) by the French painter Hercule Florence differed from today’s sounds. The acoustic manifestations of the past and present made it possible to experience and convey Brazilian culture and society through musical means.

Diálogos Perigosos 1 and 2

1995 (09’54”, 09’11”)

The two pieces “Diálogos 1 and 2” are part 1 and 3 of the 4-movement composition “Zoophonia”. They can be heard on the CD alone, since the installation “Zoophonia” only musically presents the other two compositions “Fotos” (2) and “Fénix” (4). The animal sounds are, among others, the sounds of the jaguar, whose track I had seen on my expedition through Brazil and which are also recorded in the writing “Zoophonia” by Hercule Florence. The hissing of the jaguar I recorded afterwards in Germany at the Zoo in Krefeld and was edited electronically.

Green Room



The Green Room, named after the small room where the artists stay during a performance, takes on a central role within the installation of Zoophonia. The Green Room is a green “sound-light column” made of velvet hanging in the middle of the exhibition space, which is 3.20 metres high and 1.5 metres in diameter. When entering and leaving this tube, a light barrier is interrupted by two photocells, which triggers or stops the sound.

Every single visitor of the Green Room finds himself in the middle of a glaring green hot beam of light. Acoustically shielded, the composition Fotos  is radiated in a “diffuse” room acoustic. The artists here are the birds and the animals that Florence describes in his Zoophonia. The Green Room is the time tunnel to Hector Florence and his world during the expedition.

From the outside, the Green Room rises up into the air like a trunk of a tree. The ceiling or the floor of the exhibition room are not touched.

Fénix will be heard over loudspeakers in the crimson exhibition space. The light is diffuse. Only the loudspeakers are illuminated with artificial light. In contrast to Fotos, the room acoustics of Fénix have a clearly separated stereo image.

Green Room is thus a space within a space, a story of the past in a world of 1995 Brazil, a sound-light dream surrounded by the present-day acoustic landscapes in which Florence found herself at that time. Two temporal phenomena are sketched, which the visitor can experience and perceive separately or connecting with each other.

© Copyright - Michael Fahres