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After Dark: The Sounds of Life

Color print of Princess of Wales parakeets, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library
After Dark: The Sounds of Life

If we could listen to the secret language of the natural world, what would we hear? Tonight, learn about the scientists studying this question and their astonishing findings about the hidden sounds of nature. We now know that many animals—and even some plants—once thought to be silent have actually been communicating and conversing all this time. Tonight, inspired by the recent book The Sounds of Life by Karen Bakker, we will listen to these secret sounds, and learn about the scientists tracking them. Experience the impressive diversity of sounds surrounding us and their possible meanings, from warnings about predators to connection and community building and explore the inventive techniques and groundbreaking digital tools used to capture them. And don’t miss a performance by Ana Roxanne, created in close collaboration with recording legend Bernie Krause and drawing on his extensive archive documenting the music of wild animals and natural environments. 

Image: "Princess of Wales' Parrakeet," from The Aviculture Magazine (v.5, 1888–1889) courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. 

IV Elements
8:00 p.m.
Kanbar Forum

By Ana Roxanne

Join celebrated experimental ambient sound musician Ana Roxanne for an intimate performance of her piece IV Elements inspired by The Great Animal Orchestra and commissioned by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2022. To create this piece, Ana worked closely with bioacoustician Bernie Krause to compose a four-piece suite, with each piece dedicated to one of the traditional four elements—earth, air, fire, and water. The suite is a meditation on interconnectedness, subtle and grand beauty, the flow of life, and the cycle of death expressed through keyboards, guitar, bass, and the human voice. Excerpts from Bernie Krause’s soundscape recordings are layered within each suite, offering a new experience of his groundbreaking material. Roxanne’s own field recordings and poetry serve to supplement and highlight each of the four natural elements.

Ana Roxanne works at the intersection of electric meditation, dream pop, and ambient songcraft. Her inspirations span the secular (R&B divas of 1980s and '90s) and the spiritual (Catholic choral traditions in which she was raised), synthesized into a uniquely intuitive sonic language, equal parts atmospheric and ancient, healing and hermetic.

The Great Animal Orchestra was commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in 2016 and is now part of its permanent collection.

The Sounds of Life
6:00–10:00 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon

Gallery 1, Microcinema
and Monitors Throughout the Museum

With Karen Bakker

Listen carefully to the secret sounds of the animal world. In this collection of videos created by Karen Bakker she takes you up close to five species and their fascinating sounds, and the stories of how scientists have studied them. Drawing from her book The Sounds of Life, Karen invites you to listen for more than buzzes from bees, reflect on the depth of the “elephant dictionary," and learn how some plants communicate about their health through sound—as well as the many ways digital technologies are offering new ways for humans to hear and understand these sounds.

Karen Bakker is a Canadian scientist, author, and entrepreneur known for her work on digital transformation, environmental governance, and sustainability. A Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford University, she teaches at the University of British Columbia. She is currently the Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Stanford University’s Annenberg Fellowship in Communication, Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40," and a Trudeau Foundation Fellowship.



Pattern Radio: Whale Songs
6:00–10:00 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon

Created as a collaboration between Google staff and research oceanographer Ann Allen at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, this interactive exhibit lets you tune into thousands of hours of humpback whale songs. Dive into a selection of tours that take you through how the sounds were recorded and what they may mean. Or you can guide yourself using Pattern Radio’s AI-generated “heat map” that visualizes where certain sounds are most likely to be heard.

Listening to Ocean Giants
6:30–9:30 p.m., Tiny Talk at 7:30 p.m.
Gallery 2: Tinkering

The sea is filled with sounds that, when we tune in, offer essential clues to the composition of the ecosystem and the health of sealife. Join John Ryan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to tune in and learn what the sounds you hear mean. Assisted by technology—some familiar and some specialized—John will help you hear elements of the ocean that are usually inaudible to the human ear. With each sound you hear, he’ll share stories and insights into the science behind them—and how understanding these sounds is essential to conservation.

John Ryan is a biological oceanographer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), an independent oceanographic research centered in Moss Landing, California, whose mission is to advance marine science and engineering to understand a changing ocean. John studies the ecology of plankton, fish, and mammals—primarily through integration of remote and in situ sensing technologies. A collaboration between science and engineering, this research involves advancing methods of sampling and data analysis.

Seal Sounds
6:30–9:30 p.m., Tiny Talk at 7:45 p.m.
Gallery 2: Tinkering

With Pinniped Lab
Eavesdrop on communication between seals and learn more about their vocalizations. As you listen to the sounds of different seal species, researchers from the Pinniped Lab at UC Santa Cruz will invite you to try to match the sounds to their species in an interactive game. And, they’ll share more about elephant seals, each of whom has a unique voice that is recognizable as their own. Will you be able to match the voice to the photo?

The Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab at Long Marine Laboratory at University of California at Santa Cruz explores the inner worlds of amphibious marine mammals. Their researchers examine the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that enable individuals to gather, organize, and use various types of information, as well as the physiological mechanisms that support behavioral plasticity in marine mammals. They are fortunate to work closely with five marine mammal species representing two families of marine carnivores (Otariidae and Phocidae) in their long-term studies.

Lek-ing for Love: Sage Grouses
8:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon

With Eric Tymstra

Struts, tail shakes, heart rates reaching unfathomable levels—these are a few of the ways male sage grouses try to attract a female to mate with. Join Eric Tymstra as he shares the birds’ fascinating, elaborate breeding displays and the vibe at the leks, or breeding grounds, where they perform them. The term “leks” comes from the Swedish for play, and refers to the shared space where male sage grouses compete to attract females by performing their individual strut displays. Find out the unique signal each movement communicates to the watchers—and how certain male grouses have upped their game, allowing them to attract and breed with many female admirers.

Eric Tymstra is a PhD candidate at UC Davis in the Graduate Group in Ecology. Previously Eric worked for UC Santa Cruz in the Sierra foothills monitoring bird populations as part of an effort to map the spread and virulence of West Nile Virus. Eric's interests center on the sensory and foraging ecology of birds of prey, especially vultures, a misunderstood yet vitally important species. 

DJ Dance Party
6:30–9:30 p.m.
Gordon and Betty Moore Gallery 4: Living Systems

With DJ Ren

A Bay Area resident hailing from New York, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist (aka Renoir) made his mark as the founder of True Skool (est. '99). Originally a party featuring hip hop legends, emerging artists, and world-class turntablists, the brand has evolved into an urban music entertainment guide and event marketing company. As a DJ, Ren is known for his eclectic and diverse musical selections. He has shared billing with a wide range of world-renowned artists including Z-Trip, Jazzy Jeff, Q-Bert, Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim, and KRS-One, to name just a few.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase at our Seaglass Restaurant and additional bar locations.