“Bird language is key to understanding all other animal languages”

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Anne Cecilie Caroline Brunborg Lie was one of the two winners of last year’s Sound Walk September 2019, with her piece Entangled Formation, which uncovers the stories of non-human inhabitants in Prague. Here, Anne talks about her work.

Entangled Formations, a site-relational sound-walk, weaves together stories and movements from non-human inhabitants of Prague. It entangles local, migratory and visiting birds in a sonorous world that the audience can listen in on and delve into. Poetic reflections and facts on birds’ complex songs, lives and cognisance intermingle with extensive field recordings from Prague and talks with ornithologist Petr Voříšek from the Czech Society of Ornithology (CSO). 

Through the free geo-locative sound-app Locosonic, listeners can walk around as they please in the landscape of Stromovka Park and Holesoviche, an area stretching over one square kilometre. The listener activates the audio through their body movements, the app and the GPS on their phones. Their routes intermingle with the ones sonified, creating a non-linear narrative of past, present, and future. The body of the listener becomes a sonic vessel from which a story can unfold. 

The work encourages us to listen closely and relate more intimately to our immediate surroundings and to those we share our spaces and lives with. We are all part of an entangled network of different species and entities. An intricate, vast weave, including all living and non-living things. Sound as an omnipresent and physical, yet highly ephemeral phenomenon, is potent for representing this complex mesh that surrounds us, but that we do not always see or take into account. GPS and internet are ubiquitous phenomena as well, a completely integrated part of our ecology. Their patterns can look like the threads of neuro-patterns, but also like bird migration routes.

About the process

With a growing interest in ornithology, I wanted to work with birds for the Prague Quadrennial. We share a long history with these non-humans: through animal husbandry, as pets, from outside city windowsills to wilderness. Birds are everywhere in the world, like us. They have inspired us for centuries through arts, music, poetry, technological inventions, through literature, folktales, myths and more. 

We don’t know precisely how all migratory bird species navigate and know where to navigate to, but research suggests, for example, that European robins, might somehow see, hear or sense entangled particles, engulfed in what to us is utterly abstract: the quantum world. We already know many birds can see and/or hear magnetic waves, they navigate with sun and wind, through smell, and other senses.

Prague is a city rich with birdlife, in significant contrast to most other cities in the world, partly because of considerable political pressure and conservation efforts by the CSO. Throughout April, May and June Petr Voříšek from the CSO and I sonically mapped the birds of Prague and Stromovka Park in particular. Through mapping we found that in 2019 fewer migratory birds were actually arriving and there were numerous unexplainable deaths of birds in their nests, which can be read as signs that something bigger is up. 

Bird language is key to understanding all other animal languages, including our own. Flock behaviour and metacognition in birds are subject to a wide range of research including that of embryogenesis and even how to solve the environmental crisis through linking metacognition of the world’s top environmental scientists in a largescale computer program. Still, there is so much we don’t know about our non-human companions and yet, we are running out of time to understand them. 

Besides my own field recordings from spring 2019, the sound landscape of Entangled Formations includes recordings of birds threatened and/or going extinct in Prague and the Czech Republic that we could not find and record ourselves. These came from the website Xeno-Canto, which provides free to use recordings from bird enthusiasts collected from all over the world. Lastly, the walk included recordings of birds that might be here in the future. But the stark reality is that most likely there will be mostly silence.

The soundwalk Entangled Formations is always available for listening in Stromovka Park and Holesoviche through the free geo-locative app Locosonic. To experience the work as a whole, you would need about 4-5 hours, but you can walk as long as you please and choose your own trajectory.

Anne Cecilie Caroline Brunborg Lie

Anne Cecilie Caroline Brunborg Lie

SWS Award winner

Through her work, Lie examines how to create in our current geological era proposed as the Anthropocene, with its accompanying philosophical and ethical questions, as well as for possible futures. She points out blind zones in social and built structures a...


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