Sonic Feather

Co-authored by multimedia artists Marcel Karnapke and Mika Johnson, Sonic Feather gives Dawn Chorus participants a tool to create unique, visual animations based on their recordings, which can in turn be shared via social media. It is inspired by the idea that scientific data, when transformed, can also be art – and that now is the moment in which scientists and artists should join forces to create awareness around the threats to our planet’s biodiversity.

As a custom-made tool, the Sonic Feather echoes digital painting tools, except that its brush emits sound rather than color, which you activate by touching your screen. Think painting, drawing, writing, or playing with an audio file, in this case on your phone, which becomes a two-dimensional canvas. As you create your Sonic Feather, your audio file, now uncoupled from linear time, becomes an image, unique to your interaction with it. This new representation allows you to interact with the sounds of the dawn chorus in a way that classical audio playback cannot. Our hope is that your experience of creating a Sonic Feather will add yet another perspective to this project, allowing you to see, hear, think and feel differently about the sounds and songs of birds. 

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Sonic Feather – this is how it works

In the Dawn Chorus app, you can start creating your own “Sonic “Feather” once you have made your audio recording, and added all the metadata. The sound recording will become your sonic ink, which you activate by touching your screen. You can paint either on a simple black canvas, or on the photograph you took of your Dawn Chorus recording location, to create your unique visual animation of bird song, generated by its sound and frequency patterns, and your creativity.

Use the “Sonic Feather” app feature to create your own media artwork with every new recording and become a citizen artist!

The free DAWN CHORUS app with “Sonic Feather” media art feature is available for iOS and Android (for smartphones with Android version 8 / iOS version 11 or higher):

Mika Johnson, multimedia artist and co-creator of the app feature, shows how to draw a Sonic Feather:


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The idea behind “Sonic Feather”:

“Every Sonic Feather will be as unique as a person’s fingerprint, just as every feather on this planet is unique. In this case, it makes us aware that sound is never just sound, but also creation. When participants share their creations online, they become part of a bigger story about how science and art combined with technology can reshape the world. This is about inspiration and awareness, about creation, and about science and art joining forces to celebrate the mystery and the beauty that birds and their songs give us.“

Mika Johnson, multimedia artist and co-creator of the app

The artists

Multimedia artist Mika Johnson (born 1975 in San Diego/USA) works in the design of XR experiences and also in various media, including as a director for fictitious and documentary projects. He explores dream-like narratives, myths, rituals and biological diversity in the broadest sense. He worked for example with the Goethe-Institut in New Delhi to establish a virtual library connecting global knowledge systems, and for the Lost Forms and Found Forms project (produced by Expanded Focus Leipzig), which enables users to interact with an iceberg and to immerse themselves in the complex relations between fungi, trees and plants.

The Sonic Feather by Mika Johnson (pdf) >

Berliner artist Marcel Karnapke (born 1983) is a theatre director, a developer, and a teacher. He is co-founder of the artists’ collective CyberRäuber, which creates new formats and applications for mixed realities in the context of classical theatre, opera and ballet. The main focus of his work is on merging high technologies with architectures of the human narrative. His work has received numerous prizes and encompasses themes such as virtual reality, the artificial intelligence of future architecture, archaeology, and the construction of realities.

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