Cincinnati is about to come alive with the magical melodies of spring, thanks to the creative genius of Trent University's Dr. Jessica Marion Barr. Her latest sound installation, Vernal Chorus, is a stunning tribute to the sounds of the season, promising to charm audiences with its ethereal beauty and captivating harmonies.
"Vernal Chorus is a layered soundscape of various phenomena that one can hear around springtime called vernal pools,” says Professor Barr, assistant professor and coordinator of Trent’s Bachelor of Arts and Science Program.
Vernal pools are temporary pools of water created by melting snow and springtime rain and are important breeding grounds for species such as spring peepers, gray tree frogs, fairy shrimp, and Jefferson salamanders.
“Many of these species are threatened or endangered because of things like land development, farming, and urbans sprawl,” explains Prof. Barr, whose sound installation was originally created as a collaboration on a project in 2014 with artist Karen Miranda Abel called Vernal Pool: A participatory art project about place + precipitation.
Nature’s tone poem enhancing visual art
Prof. Barr was contacted by Stacey Kutish, senior director of Exhibition Development at the Cincinnati Museum last October.
“She was putting together a new exhibit call and was interested in acquiring the sound installation artwork that I created,” shares Prof. Barr.
The 22-minute piece masterfully captures the essence of choral singing with its harmonious and dissonant notes, contrasting straight rhythmic patterns with syncopation, and building tension through crescendos and diminuendos. Prof. Barr skillfully weaves together the sounds of spring peepers with the bass drone of the water to create a mesmerizing soundscape that will transport listeners to the heart of nature.
“I designed it to kind of ebb and flow so there’s not just one consistent wall of sound,” says Prof. Barr, who – not surprisingly – sings soprano with the Peterborough Singers.
Adding a sound component to the art has the effect of making the experience more immersive.
“It draws the viewer or person experiencing the art into a more complete environment using more than just their visual sense,” says Prof. Barr. “It’s really a soundscape that brings together and manifests the sounds of the natural world that enfolds the vernal pool experience in a non-natural space.”
Part of larger ecologically informed practice
This type of ecological artwork is part of Prof. Barr’s larger practice as an ecologically attuned artist and researcher. “I would call it research creation in that it is informed by ecological research while the creative artwork component invites viewers and listeners into an ecological space and encouraging them to engage deeply with these precious phenomena that are often in need of protection and preservation,” says Prof. Barr.