Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

AM’s Frog Chorus – a new musical project

Alexis Weaver: “I want audiences to come away with a renewed wonder in our native wildlife.” Photo: Steven Siewert/Australian Museum.

Michael Sun, It’s only croak ‘n’ roll but we like it, The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2018

It’s a noise as Australian as a kookaburra’s cackle or the buzz of cicadas, but you’re never heard frogs sound quite like this before.

Frog Chorus, a new musical project at the Australian Museum, turns the familiar sound into a work that would easily find a home at an experimental electronic festival.

Composed by Sydney Conservatorium of Music student Alexis Weaver, the track layers pulsing, distorted beats underneath a dark symphony of frog calls. The calls are drawn from a collection of the sounds from hundreds of species submitted by the public.

Weaver wants to highlight the importance of frogs.

“I want audiences to come away with a renewed wonder in our native wildlife,” she says. “Frogs are a huge, essential part of our ecosystem and not only am I drawing attention to the important work being done at the museum, but I’m also trying to raise awareness of the beautiful diversity in wildlife we have in Australia.”

She hopes visitors will have fresh respect for their amphibious backyard companions by engaging with her interactive work.

Its debut on Wednesday as part of the Australian Museum’s Culture Up Late series will encourage audiences to play wooden frog-shaped percussion over Weaver’s eerie backing track. Participants will also have the chance to create their own soundscape by mixing and matching different noises from Frog ID’s database.

“I hope the mood of the audience will be fun, curious, exploratory,” Weaver says. “A lot of my music … is very atmospheric–  I hope it’s not scary sounding!”

Culture Up Late director Tanya Goldberg says the project is just the latest example of the long, intertwined history of music and science.

“Music and mathematics – which is a science – have a tradition of going hand in hand,” she says. “Music and medicine too – music can change someone’s neurological state.

“For me, if we are the guardians of culture, we’re guardians of a living thing. And music is part of any living culture.”

Goldberg aims to take the museum away from its traditional role as a “bastion of knowledge, and wisdom, and authority” by using innovative works like Frog Chorus.

“There is a cultural shift towards inviting participants to learn and experience and understand,” she says. “I hope we ignite something – some curiosity. That’s what this is – a provocation for the curious.”

Frog Chorus opens on Wednesday, and continues weekly until February 28. For more information, visit https://australianmuseum.net.au/landing/cultureuplate/.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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