30/01/08: The Guardian
"Bat chorus eyes £50,000 prize"
01/03/08: M Magazine
"Musical Pioneers - The shortlist for the PRS Foundation's 2008 New Music Award has been announced. The 'Turner Prize of the music industry' attracts considerable press attention and is the most financially significant award of its kind in the UK.... The shortlist was carefully selected from over 130 entries and the winner is being announced at an award event in April...".
15/04/08: The Telegraph
"Robert Jarvis - Echolocation
Extended overture for a choir of bats.
Detectors at the London Wetland Centre record the ultrasonic signals emitted by thousands of visiting bats. A computer turns their squeaks into a constantly evolving format that will be played back as a “four-dimensional experience”.
Who is he?
Robert Jarvis is a composer and installation artist. The Brian Eno of zoos and nature reserves, he has done similar things with birds and insects.
18/04/08: Times On Line
"Composer, trombonist and sound artist Robert Jarvis is rubbing his eyes wearily. I’ve just dropped yet more homemade coffee cake crumbs on his spotless desk and asked, again, how the Batphone, a walky talk like device, works. “Bat Box”, he says with the weary intensity of someone who often ends up having to repeat themselves, “Bats communicate through ultrasonic sound. A higher pitch than we can hear. The Bat Boxes are detectors which translate the ultrasonic calls of the bats into our frequency range.” Ah, so each bat is like a radio station and you are tuning in? Deep sigh, “Yes, but they’re not playing anything you want to hear, at least not for very long.” He’s right. So far we’ve listened to a Leisler (bubbly), a Serotine(funky) and a Daubenton (like a machine gun), all interesting but not exactly “musical”, “So my plan is to turn them into something worth hearing.”
Jarvis is one of six artists shortlisted for this Monday’s £50,000 New Music Award, a sort of Turner Prize for music. Funded by the UK’s largest independent funder for new music, the PRS foundation, the inaugural prize was won by former Pogue Jem Finer, for Score For A Hole in the Ground, a 20ft brass horn that is currently broadcasting sounds from a hole deep in a Kentish wood.
We are in Jarvis’s studio discussing his bid for the year’s prize, Echolocation, a “bat choir”. His studio is a small, neat room, with swirly lilac Anaglypta wall paper, in his Faversham house. There is a pair of spotty socks on a side table, an Aaron Copland CD, two lap tops and not much else. A postcard on display bears the slogan ‘Nature Is A Workshop’. A combination of eccentricity and fastidiousness, it reflects Jarvis rather well.
In the past Jarvis has used flowers (their DNA), postmen (their whistling) and toffee sellers in China (the sound of their hammers breaking up the sweet) in his sound compositions. Echolocation would see bat boxes being placed at various locations around the London Wetland Centre. The ultrasonic calls of the 10,000 or so bats would be detected by the boxes, converted into audible frequencies which in turn will be digitally sequenced into music. If he wins, this summer for the whole of the bat season visitors will be able to go to the Wetland centre and hear the previous night activity represented in musical form.
So, the obvious question, why and why bats? “Well obviously bats communicate outside our hearing range, and I like making the hidden audible. All my work is about place and helping people discover their surroundings in unexpected ways. Sound is good way of doing that.” "
19/04/08: The Times
"Yes, but is it music? If someone out there isn’t muttering this by the end of this page, my name’s Karlheinz Stockhausen. Why? Because I’m about to describe the shortlist for the biggest composition prize in British music: the PRS Foundation’s New Music Award, which will announce on Monday who gets £50,000 to create a wacky new work. It’s been called contemporary music’s answer to the Turner Prize – and you’ll see why.
The first contender is Robert Jarvis, who is proposing to create a chorus of bats. No, that’s not a metaphor or a misprint. Called Echolocation, his piece will record the ultrasonic nocturnal squeaks of the thousands of bats winging round the London Wetland Centre. He will then use a computer to sequence the sounds (according to an “algorithmic” formula he has devised), bring them within human hearing, and then replay them at the site during the day to create a “four-dimensional experience” for visitors. This operation will be repeated night and day for four months.
Too batty for words? ...Behind this extraordinary award is the Performing Right Society, which collects royalties for composers. It wants the prize to “ignite the imagination of the creative community and dramatically raise the profile and level of debate around contemporary British music”. That’s a laudable aim. Avant-garde musicians look with envy at the huge media interest generated by their visual-arts equivalents – the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Perhaps a bat chorus or a contrapuntal bicycle will redress the balance."
21/04/08: The Independent
"...sound artist Robert Jarvis proposes to create a "choir of bats" in Echolocation. He will place bat detectors around London Wetland Centre and tune into the ultrasonic bio-sonar calls of the bats that visit each night (10,000 of them at busy times). He would transmit the chirps to a central computer to be turned into a surround-sound experience, for visitors at the centre...".
27/04/08: The Sunday Times
"...Pohjonen playfully dubs the Earth Machine Music tour “industrial agricultural music”. Of course, he is not the first artist to make music from unlikely sources – just the latest in a tradition that goes back as far as the early 20th century, to the French-born classical composer Edgard Varèse....
As for contemporary artists, the shortlist for 2008’s PRS Foundation New Music Award - the British music industry’s answer to the Turner prize – includes Robert Jarvis’s ambitious “echolocation” installation at the London Wetland Centre, which employs a “choir” of bat calls...."
The Hub, BBC Radio Oxford.
To listen to an extract of the show please go to my Listen page.
The Domestic Soundscape
"...Robert Jarvis’ piece, Echo 1, which translated the radar calls of bats down into a register audible to the human ear was highly ‘imaginative’ both in concept and in execution.. The resultant soundscapes had a really ethereal quality. There is also something magical and otherworldly about the ordinarily silent calls of the bats being unusually revealed to us in this way. But the placement of bright lights along the Cherwell to attract the bats to the site and the observation of their presence in the gardens all required - again - a large deal of carefully noticing and observing reality."
"...The Botanical Gardens is one of my most favourite parts of Oxford but actually since I lived here I've hardly been.... I had been to see Power Plant there a couple of years ago and loved it so was very excited to see what would happen this time. It was great – I really enjoy wondering around the garden at night and it is both magical and quite creepy at the same time....
I loved the feeling of being there and think it's a great way of attracting audiences who might not otherwise go to hear contemporary music. For me it felt like the work engaged a lot more with the garden than in Power Plant and I think it is brilliant that the artists have been working with the garden since March. One piece I particularly enjoyed...created sounds using the bat activity already going on in the garden. It was very exciting seeing the bats flitting across the water insect hunting."
"I couldn't believe that I was listening to real bats - what a variety of noises, and to see them in real time was an abolute knockout. The whole thing was fantastic but the bats were real stars."
"Simply magical. Bats skimming the water catching insects and hearing this in a fabulous musical melody - more please!"
"I was enchanted by the bat chatter... what a genius idea, and so beautiful."
"This is the kind of music that makes people think and transforms their experience of bats, of humans, of sound, of communication. This kind of transformative experience is the whole reason for art."
"[Echolocation] without question was innovative and unlike anything I have seen or heard of before. The content alone felt groundbreaking but the additional fact that this took place towards the end of the evening deeply embedded within a large nature reserve where the audience found its way via their own torches was truly ambitious.
The piece itself seemed without fault, and was aesthetically beautiful. The riverbank had been set up with a discreet yet effective speaker system and the lighting used in the piece illuminated parts of the riverbank beautifully. All seemed to run proficiently and the audience witnessed a rare and exciting piece of art that relayed and interpreted the communication between the bat communities in the area.
I myself and I feel most of the audience present were in awe of the project, the sounds were beautiful and there was a real sense of marvel in that we were hearing a communication between the bats. This work set out to be highly ambitious and pulls it off.
The work undoubtedly inspires an individual reflection, well certainly for me it did in relation to the place we live, how we live and the music and wonder that nature surrounds us with that we often fail to see and hear. I myself have found myself talking to many people about it and thinking of the piece frequently. I think it will reconnect people with the environment or help individuals see our surroundings and art more readily or in a different way.
This was a memorable, inspiring and touching piece of work that connects profoundly on a very individual level and encourages much thought and reflection."
"I think this is an intriguing and innovative project. Given the high frequency of the bats' sonar communication system, this installation will give us the opportunity to hear what is usually above our sonic capabilities. Bats are one of the more neglected endangered species and this project, as well as challenging people's conceptions of music, should raise awareness of this remarkable creature... bring on the bats!!!"