Mentawai: Listening to the Rainforest and What It Tells Us About Ourselves and Our World
April 18, 2012
DAVIS--When you listen to the rainforest, what does it tell you about ourselves and our world?
In keeping with Earth Day, a unique art/science fusion program titled “Mentawai: Listening to the Rainforest,” will be presented at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 22 in the UC Davis Main Theatre. The event, free and open to the public, is affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance and the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The program is the work of scholar/performer Linda Burman-Hall, professor of music/ethnomusicology at UC Santa Cruz and biologist Richard Tenaza, professor of biological sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton. Tenaza received his doctorate in zoology from UC Davis in 1974.
Burman-Hall will present an electronic sound collage composition and videography, coupled with Tenaza’s field recordings and photography of threatened and endangered species in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, located more than 100 miles west of Sumatra.
In the abstract, Burman-Hall asks: “What does the rainforest tell us about ourselves and the world? In the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, wildlife communicates using a complete spectrum of sound that exceeds the range and timbre of a western orchestra. More than 50 meters overhead, female gibbons sing expressive duets in the tree-tops. Hundreds of unique species of birds, frogs, and insects also call and chorus, and in the midst of this sonorous world live indigenous tribes who have listened to the rainforest and existed harmoniously with its flora and fauna for millennia.”
“This promises to be a fantastic multimedia program,” said entomologist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Ullman co-founded and co-directs the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program with self-described “rock artist” Donna Billick of Davis.
|Nasute termites. (Photo by Richard Tenaza and insect identification by Alex Wild.)|
“Mentawai, Listening to the Rainforest, is a extraordinary opportunity to enhance environmental literacy,” said Billick, who will represent the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program on the five-member panel of respondents offering their views on the multimedia work. “Listening engages all our senses to a heightened awareness that brings consciousness into the present moment. This approach to research, using sound image and videography, is as good as it can be. I applaud Linda Burman-Hall and Richard Tenaza for drifting out into the Art/Science borderland to bring back the Mentawai gifts.”
Billick, a noted artist, created the six-foot-long bee sculpture in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
The respondents panel also includes UC Davis faculty members Lynne Isbell, professor of anthropology; Andrew Marshall, associate professor of anthropology; Sarah Hrdy, professor emerita of anthropology, Henry Spiller, associate professor of music (ethnomusicology).
The program will showcase a number of wildlife that live in the rainforest. Among the insects will be Tenaza’s photos of nasute termites (as identified by noted insect photographer Alex Wild, research scholar at the University of Illinois); Malay Lacewing butterflies (Cethosia hypsea) of the Nymphalidae family, and “The Cruiser” Vindula erota species of nymphalid butterfly (identified by Arthur Shapiro of UC Davis).
|Malay Lacewing butterfly (Cethosia hypsea). (Photo by Richard Tenaza; identification provided by Arthur Shapiro of UC Davis.)|
Burman-Hall, the artistic director of the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, has performed a wide range of music throughout the United States, in Canada, The Netherlands, Germany and Indonesia-- from works of the medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen to world premieres of multi-cultural, experimental and computer music.
For performance research and recordings, Burman-Hall has received individual and team grants from National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and University of California Pacific Rim Research Program. She has been featured on National Public Radio and in other news media.
Linda Burman-Hall's recordings are available on Musical Heritage, Centaur, Helicon and Wildboar labels.
Tenaza, a wildlife biologist, photographer, world traveler and adventurer, has conducted research in the Arctic, Antarctica, Africa, South America, China, and throughout Southeast Asia with a focus on Indonesia. He specializes in primates and has worked extensively to document and preserve Kloss's gibbon (Hylobates klossii) of Mentawai. Tenaza, who received his bachelor’s degree in biology from San Francisco State University in 1964 before enrolling as a graduate student at UC Davis, says on his website:
“When I was a child I didn’t fantasize about being a fireman or policeman or president or movie actor. I didn’t fantasize about material possession or wealth either. What I fantasized about were wild animals and wild people in wild places. I fantasized about photographing birds and writing their stories. I fantasized about water buffalo and rice paddies and houses on stilts. I fantasized about living in rain forests and walking on frozen seas. I’ve been very, very fortunate in having been able to live out many of those childhood fantasies.”
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology