• Artist: Lou Sheppard
  • Medium: Sound Installation
  • Project Type: Major Institutions
  • Neighbourhood: Downtown

A multi-channel audio sculpture translates birdsong from the shores of Lake Ontario.

Location

Toronto Sculpture Garden

  • Address: 115 King St. E.
    (on the south side of King St., just east of Church St.)
  • Public Washrooms: No
  • Physical Access: Wheelchair accessible, uneven surface throughout the viewing area
  • Indoors/Outdoors: Outdoors

The Project

This 14-hour composition will follow the pattern of a Toronto morning’s dawn chorus through to evensong—the time when birds fade out in the evening. Using spectrograms (or sound images), the notation for this piece will be created by laying each spectrogram onto a musical staff and tracing a musical notation. That notation will then be layered into a sonic day of birdsong. As bird species are threatened by habitat loss, climate change and pollutants, we are losing birdsong in our aural environments—both in Toronto and elsewhere. The abstracted data of a spectrogram—what remains of missing birdsongs—is re-presented through its musical translation. This gesture will point at what we no longer hear. Addressing both the current crisis and potential future of Anthropogenic climate change, this artwork will ask what have we lost and how will we remember.

The Artist

Lou Sheppard is a Canadian artist working in interdisciplinary audio, performance and installation. Of settler ancestry, Sheppard is from Nova Scotia (unceded Mi’kmaq territory) and based in Halifax/K’jipuktuk. In their recent practice, Sheppard uses processes of translation and metaphor to interrogate structures of power in data and language.

Acknowledgements

Lou Sheppard would like to thank Pamela Hart, audio engineer and music consultant, the Toronto Biennial and the Toronto Sculpture Garden—as well as the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Program for supporting initial stages of this work.