PandoraBird: Identifying the Types of Music That May Be Favored by Our Avian Co-Inhabitants at DigiHuman Lab Rutgers University

PandoraBird: Identifying the Types of Music That May Be Favored by Our Avian Co-Inhabitants is a site-specific installation that uses computer vision and interactive software to track the music choices made by local feeder birds. The project is in collaboration with the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal and the The Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Rutgers University, which is a platform for the artistic uses of computer vision and machine learning.

Aims and Objectives
Our current project involves creating one outdoor, sound-emitting, interactive sculpture. This sculpture or “listening station” plays music in a dedicated genre: classical, country or rock. Lifted into the air on a 10ft. post, the stations will features a directional sound cone in the form of a hood (PandoraBird design, figure 2). This structure covers an external speaker and a customized mp3 player running a music application that has been specifically created for wild birds. This audio hood is mounted over a tray of wild bird food. A small camera, mounted at the tray level uses computer vision to quantify the number and species of birds feeding during each musical interlude. A solar panel and rechargeable battery pack provid each listening station a contained, renewable power source. The PandoraBird project is a mobile, self-sustaining learning system that can be exhibited at museums, sculpture parks and other outdoor venues that may be visited by wild feeder birds. The computer interfaces with the iPod app, effectively allowing each avian species to identify which tunes it prefers in a given genre, and to build a species-specific database of favored music. The station invites viewer participation on the ground and has a webcam that allows humans (all over the world) to watch and listen to the birds’ musical choices.

Background
In 2007, Demaray collaborated with the videographer James Walsh on Listening Stations for Birds, That Play Human Music (art images, figure 1) Created for the woods of the Abington Art Center in Pennsylvania, a forested sculpture garden that is surrounded by the suburbs of Philadelphia, the piece considered the way that life forms, human and otherwise, may interact in a shared environment. Set along a secluded nature trail, this installation was comprised of a series of four sound-emitting sculptures, each playing a loop of either classical, jazz, country, or rock music and offering a tray of wild bird food. While this early work aimed to see what kind of music birds might like, its primary motive was to get viewers out into the woods, to interact with other species and to consider the impact of our presence on other life forms. Observations on the musical preferences of the feeding birds were noted by park visitors on worksheets. While the piece was popular with park visiter and local birds alike, data collection proved inconclusive, largely due to issues with bird observation and identification.

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Listening Stations for Birds, that play human music, Elizabeth Demaray and James Walsh, Abington Art Center, Jenkintown, PA 2007

For Demaray and Walsh, the most difficult part of this ambitious installation was however having to choose the four or five tunes that were played at each listening station. How does one select what songs a bird might like best? The team ended up choosing works that they felt might be considered human masterpieces in each category. They concluded that if they were going to give a gift to these other life forms—if this was in fact an act of trans-species giving—it should be the best that humans have to offer.

With advents in the field of computer vision, The PandoraBird Project is now be able to create an interactive system that may actually be able to identify which specific tunes individual birds prefer. Elgammal’s work group in the Department of Computer Science specializes in using computer vision for fine-grained recognition, which is the problem of recognizing subordinate categories. In a study titled Write A Classifier: Learning Fine-Grained Visual Classifiers from Text and Images (NSF #1409683), his group is investigating algorithms for automatically recognizing localized body parts. This study supports the PandoraBird system by creating algorithms that automatically recognize bird species from images based on text descriptions of these species

Rationale
There is ample circumstantial evidence that many avian species pay attention to human sound. In the US Mid-Atlantic Region, cat birds and mockingbirds replicate noises made by people. In Australia, the lyre bird even learns human tunes and teaches them to successive generations of its young. Utilizing a computer vision system, PandoraBird may allow us to better understand, and ultimately communicate with, the other life forms in our shared environment.

The PandorBird Project Design, figure 2

PandoraBird

Collaborative Design
The offerings in each genre of music are chosen using standard criteria from web-based “music-discovery services,” using melody, harmony, rhythm, form, and composition. The system will initially begin with a small database of different musical compositions in its defined genre. When a bird feeds during one of these melodies, PandoraBird uses computer vision to record its species and length of stay. If the feeding continues to the end of a piece of music, the system will select another melody with similar qualities. The presence of an individual bird at the feeder is logged by the listening station as a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”, for the piece of music currently playing and this feedback refine the system’s playlist.

The Significance of the Project in Its Field
PandoraBird may be the first example of a computer vision system dedicated to identifying the musical choices of feeder birds. The novel algorithm for species identification and interactive system that the project represents may be used for a wide range of future purposes. We plant to share the data base of preferred human songs in real-time during the project’s installation. In a more immediate context however, the authors of this project maintain that if we are to bombard other life forms with noise, we should begin to consider which types of noise our companion species might prefer.

Implications for Future Project Design Collaborations
Pandora Radio for Birds may be the first project that utilizes new technology to identify which specific tunes individual birds may like. Using this system as a pilot project, we may ultimately begin to create an interactive system that allows birds to make human-type music choices themselves.

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

The naturalist E.O. Wilson, believes that by the end of this century—in our lifetimes, we will lose half of all plants, animals and birds on our planet, if our current rate of ecological destruction continues. The Endangered Species Recipe Book, considers ways to view our ecological moment in the context of our historic interactions with the natural world.

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Installation shot: the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

Six major extinction events are chronicled in Earth’s geologic history. These events have occurred over the past 450 million years and typically span periods of tens of thousands of years. We are currently living through the Sixth Great Extinction. Never before has a major extinction event happened this rapidly, and never before has it been caused by a single species, but this one is driven almost exclusively by human actions.

The Endangered Species Recipe Book, considers ways to view our ecological moment in the context of our historic interactions with the natural world. A collaboration between the artists Elizabeth Demaray and Hugo Bastidas, this project utilizes historic illustrations, photographs, text that relate to the cooking and preparation of species now endangered or extinct. The resulting works on paper is series of oil paintings. Each painting depicts a lost species along with an excerpt from one of the historic recipes that us humans have used to cook and eat the animal. These individual works are titled with the name of the animal’s species and hung as a group, salon style. The installation is accompanied by wall text that allow viewers to look up each animals colloquial name, and full recipe in English (some of the text depicted is in the recipe’s native language). While the series may not initially resemble a book, Bastidas and Demaray consider each work on paper to be a page in an ever expanding volume dedicated to human consumption.

Two oil painting on paper from the series are pictured below.

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Detail form the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

The Caribbean Monk Seal The recipe for the heart of the Caribbean Monk Seal (last seen at Serranilla Bank between Honduras and Jamaica in 1952) reads:

“Un corazón de foca grande

1 c. Migas de pan o arroz cocido

1 cdta. perejil

1/2 cdta. salvia

1/2 cucharadita de sal

1/4 cdta. pimienta

2 cdas. Cebolla en escamas, ablandadas en agua tibia

Las rebanadas de tocino

2 cdas. mantequilla derretida

Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the roast into the hot oil and cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet and place in a slow cooker.
  • Cook onions and salt in the skillet in the meat drippings until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the salt and tomato sauce and heat through.
  • Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and orange zest; stir into the tomato sauce. Pour the tomato sauce over the roast in the slow cooker. Add potatoes, carrots and celery to the slow cooker.
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Detail form the Endangered Species Recipe Book: animals that have gone extinct or are going extinct and the recipes that we have used to eat them, 2014

Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours, or until meat is tender. Garnish with sliced almonds before serving.

The Great Auk on the other hand was often described as having large eggs and is paired with a recipe, dating from heavy Auk egg collecting, for Eggs With Brown Butter.

Two ounces of butter, on the point of browning,

Two eggs broken in a basin,

Pepper and salt,

One teaspoon of vinegar.

Information about the artists is below.

Ecuadorian-American painter, Hugo Bastidas, is renowned for his large-scale black and white paintings that span geographic and historic time-frames. Bastidas is represented by the Nohra Haime Gallery in New York City. His works are in numerous private and public collections worldwide. Born in Quito, Ecuador, Bastidas moved to the United States with his parents at the age of four. He received a B.F.A. from Rutgers University in New Jersey and M.F.A. from Hunter College in New York City. His art work can be seen at http://www.nohrahaimegallery.com/detailbio.php?id=8 and http://www.hugobastidas.com. Bastidas is an Associate Professor of Art at New Jersey City University, is an instructor at the Art Students League of New York and at the National Academy Museum and School in New York City. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and is a member of the National Academy in the United States.

Elizabeth Demaray is a visual artist who knits sweaters for plants, fabricates alternative forms of housing for land hermit crabs, and cultures lichen on the sides of skyscrapers in New York City. With the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou, she is currently creating the world’s first ever floraborgs, robotic supports for potted plants, which allow the plants to move freely in search of sunlight and water. Demaray is the recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts NYFA Fellowship in Sculpture, the National Studio Award at the New York Museum of Modern Art, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and was the 2014 Featured Artist at “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” the National Symposium of the Association of Environmental Science Studies. Demaray is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Rutgers University Camden and is an Advisor in the Department of Engineering at Rutgers University New Brunswick. Her work can be seen at http://elizbethdemaray.org.

Sweaters for Plants, FloraBorgs and the Songs We Sing at AESS

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Plant Sweater with text from “Welcome To The Anthropocene,”at this year’s Association of Environmental Science Studies (AESS) Conference at Pace University.

I am a sculptor who is interested in my culture’s interactions with the natural world. The pieces that I make often concern the concept of a biotope—small environments that are shared by multiple species, including humans. This work may also involve the notion of “trans-species giving.” Which is an idea that the commonalities between humans and other life forms are such that we humans may be able to give other life forms a “hand-up” however misguided or conceptually hamstrung we may be by our own culture’s interactions with the natural world.

Above, at the side, and at the end of this post are images of Plant Sweaters, 2014, sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters. I created this 2014 series and a number of other works for “Welcome To The Anthropocene,” an exhibition at this year’s Association of Environmental Science Studies (AESS) Conference at Pace University. The organization gave me a solo exhibition and dedicated a symposium to my artwork in recognition of the ways that the pieces I make have addressed anthropocene issues over the past decade. The exhibition showcased a number of recent works including a live web feed of the IndaPlant Project: http://elizbethdemaray.org/2014/07/21/indaplant-community-live-on-webcam/, the Endangered Species Recipe Book: http://elizbethdemaray.org/2014/10/30/the-endangered-species-recipe-book/, and a updated version of the Songs We Sing that I originally created for the Lloyd in Amsterdam: http://demaray.camden.rutgers.edu/2013/05/24/the-songs-we-sing-amsterdam-at-the-lloyd/

Upon learning of this honor form Jennifer Joy Pawlitschek, the AESS Art Director, I started to consider which pieces that I’ve been working on that might be relevant to the idea of the

The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.

“anthropocene.” As an artist who works in eco-art, new media and art and science collaboration, I’m an oddball in the art world. I make works that are not aimed at being sold, are extremely context specific and utilize a wide range of mediums and technologies. My pieces, which are always the result of a constellation of my preoccupations, may at first glance not look like a continuous body of work. In the past, I’ve countered this issue by typically only exhibiting one work at a time. However, when I considered the anthroposcene in the context of my work, I looked around my studio and I realized that everything I make is directly applicable to this concept. My artwork actually belonging here, at this symposium, has really been the oddest and most wonderful experience for me at the AESS conference. During this meeting of environmental studies people, I feel like I’ve finally found my peers and my home.

The dedicated addition of artists at the conference also played a large role in my experience of

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The Endangered Species Recipe Book, oil on paper, 2014 The work is a series of oil paintings on paper picturing an extinct/endangered species paired with text form a specific, historic, recipe that us humans used to cook and eat the animal.

belonging at the symposium. The association allowed me to assist in curating nine other artists directly onto the environmental studies panels. Two other additional superb artist panels, put together by Peter Anderson, additionally added to the number of really extraordinary artists who participated in the conference. The interesting thing about these artists is that many of them had the exact same experience that I did at AESS; the feeling that we had finally found our family in a way that we never had in the art world.

All of this is a long pre-amble to Plant Sweaters, 2014. I began knitting sweaters for plants when I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley in 1997. At the time I wanted to help the natural world, but felt ineffectual in my efforts. The plant sweaters are a result of my desire to manafest this dilemma. Creating this series for Welcome To The Anthropocene at AESS, has afforded me the time to consider the ways that my orientation to this work has changed over the course of my career. I am still interested in my culture’s interactions with the natural world. The only difference is that now I’m feeling the full effect of my efforts.

_DLG5357 Plant Sweaters, 2014, by Elizabeth Demaray. Sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters.
Plant Sweaters, 2014, by Elizabeth Demaray. Sculptures that involve live plants wearing knit sweaters.

 

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The Songs We Sing Amsterdam at the Lloyd

The Songs We Sing Amsterdam is a site-specific installation that may be experienced at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy from May 27th till June 7th, 2013. Part of a multi-city project which is currently on display in Europe, The Songs Cycle piece considers the concept of a biotope – small environments shared by humans and other species.

According to The naturalist E.O. Wilson, half of the species currently living on Earth will become extinct in the next 100 years. In this new world, we may have to create fictive environments in order to experience a sense of calm and beauty – especially in an urban context.

The Songs We Sing, the title of the installation in each city, is about connecting our ecological moment with our cognitive/behavioral needs. It ponders the lack of human companion species in a postindustrial Western landscape, and offers a possible solution.

The Songs We Sing--one installation site at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy

The Songs We Sing–one installation site at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy

The Songs Cycle project attempts to improve the current lack of animal centric sounds in our auditory experience of the natural by collecting bird calls from human volunteers. In Amsterdam, each installation sits features audio of randomly sampled human bird calls that were collected from project participants between May 5th and May 7th at the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy. Over the course of the exhibition these sampled sounds will be wirelessly installed at multiple outdoor locations in the vicinity of the Lloyd. The project aims to mix these human generated animal noises with the ambient sound of the local environment. Anybody interested in experiencing the installation need only look for the project sign on the outside of the Lloyd building and listen.

Special thanks to the project participants below:
Hugo Bastidas_Fischreiher,
Andrew Cramer_Oehoe, Theadore Dean_Seidenreiher, Elizabeth Demaray_Rohrdommel, Dylan Koomen_Mallard, Nanny Roed Lauridsen_ Grutto, Abdel Patrijs_Grebe, Ellen Rikkink_Pheasant, Brenda Saunders_Heron Crabier, Eva Schepens_Egrit, Renate Schepen_Roodborstje, Suki Verwiel_Porseleinhoen

For more information on The Songs We Sing and other projects at the Lloyd please see: http://www.lloydhotel.com/en/about-us/cultural-embassy

For information on the The Songs We Sing at DADAPost Berlin see: http://demaray.rutgers.edu/2013/05/04/the-songs-we-sing-berlin/