Composer Searches for Micro-Aural Worlds in Nature

Apr 18, 2014

Composer Cheryl Leonard looks to nature's micro-aural worlds for her music.
Credit Cheryl Leonard,

Music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.

That is what happened one day when outdoor-enthusiast and composer Cheryl Leonard was in the woods, improvising with a friend. She took a rosined bow and bowed the bark of a tree and other nature objects to explore their sounds. Although she did not hear much, she explored the idea further by amplifying the micro-aural worlds around us. That is the music to Leonard’s ears.

Leonard is visiting the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Film Department this week to explain the art of her music and exploration to the students.

“I think what I am hearing is the detail of the sounds,” says Leonard. “So what I do is I amplify these objects and then I play them in different ways and I try to find the voices they contain.”

Leonard has enjoyed working with nontraditional objects as instruments for most of her career. While starting out in college, she would improvise with friends using junk, such as sheet metal, as instruments to explore the different sounds and character that comes from the object.

In explaining what raw materials and nontraditional objects have to offer that traditional instruments, like a flute or piano, Leonard explains that they provide “more chaos than the traditional instrument and unique sounds. So if I bow a limpet shell, it doesn’t sound like anything else that you have ever really heard. And they are unrefined.”

Leonard is hosting Tinkerer’s Lab at Kenilworth Square on Friday April 18th at 2 PM. The event is open to the public and encourages everyone attending to bring objects to explore the micro-aural sounds that the object has to offer.