FRAGMENTS OF EXTINCTION - THE SONIC HERITAGE OF ECOSYSTEMS
David Monacchi
Fragments of Extinction NPO - Conservatory G. Rossini of Pesaro (Italy)
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1 - PROJECT MISSION

The soundscapes of remote natural habitats are outstanding footprints of the systemic behavior of healthy ecosystems.

The ongoing ecocide is silencing forever the marvelous choirs of natural sound, the 'eco-symphonies' we have not even heard or recorded. It is the sonic heritage of millions of years of evolution.

Started in 2001, the multidisciplinary project Fragments of Extinction takes as its core mission the collection of sonic fragments (hi-definition 24-hour 3D sound portraits) of the world's undisturbed primary equatorial forests, as imprints of the beauty and of the disappearing sonic intelligence of nature.

Fragments advocates for the importance of taking these soundscape as object of protection and patrimonialization.


Cross-disciplinarity and multi-purpose approach:

  • Research
  • Technology innovation
  • Conservation of soundscape heritage
  • Environmental sound-art

Today, Fragments of Extinction is an interdisciplinary, non-profit organization that brings together ecology, sound engineering and exhibition design to produce immersive educational installations aimed at increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of the acoustic biodiversity of the planet’s last remaining undisturbed ecosystems.

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2 - FIELD RESEARCH

Fieldwork was essential to accomplish a detailed collection, documentation and archive of sound samples of diverse, unique yet fragile ecosystems: the remnants of nature's original 'organized soundscapes'. Field recording campaigns have been conducted in the neotropics and paleotropics in equatorial ecoregions where large areas of untouched and currently undisturbed rainforest are still present, including World Heritage sites, National Parks, and protected areas. Over the past fifteen years, this fieldwork has required the implementation of advanced microphone technologies for sampling the rainforest’s spatial features, pioneering for the first time the recording of high-order ambisonics (HOA) spherical soundfields in these remote, humid environments. Monacchi’s last fieldwork in one of the most diverse places on Earth (Yasunì, Ecuador) resulted in 1.5 terabytes of 38-channels data describing entire circadian cycles with unprecedented acoustic 3D definition, now available for scientific investigation and permanent archiving.

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5 - THE ECO-ACOUSTIC THEATRE

The aesthetic experience proposed by Fragments of Extinction required a specific space to preserve the sonic characteristics (acoustic perspective and dimension of virtual sound sources) of these dense and diverse ecosystems. I en-
gineered the Eco-Acoustic Theatre, an immersive facility capable of reproducing periphonic 360° audio and visually rendering the real-time spectrogram of the soundscape as it unfolds. 


S.P.A.C.E.: the immersive Eco-acoustic hall dedicated to soundscape analysis and post-production at the Conservatorio G. Rossini in Pesaro (Italy).


The Eco-acoustic Theatre is equipped with an array of equally spaced loudspeakers all equidistant from the center, a circular real-time spectrogram projection of the ‘sonic history’ of the soundscape and a seating system to optimize and focus the audience toward the center, where the precise 3D-sound reconstruction occurs. This permits listeners an intimate experience of being in a rainforest, making them witness of an ancient but disappearing biome.



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3 - DATA ANALYSIS

Thanks to the most advanced 3D recording technologies tested and employed uniquely in Fragments of Extinction, data are analyzed not only at the microcosmic level of discrete individuals, but also at a macrocosmic level. 

The spectrogram analysis intuitively reveals the morphology of the distinct sonic gestures:

.....as well as the interdependent behavior of species within ecosystems, revealing strategies of acoustic niches segregation (Krause 1992), both in the temporal and frequency domains among species.

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4 - CONSERVATION AND FRUITION

Today with the silent force of climate change, potentially all primary undisturbed ecosystems (either protected or not) are subjected to the damage of their species composition, thus their original acoustic systems. 

  • Soundscape as intangible heritage: 

Recorded samples of endangered primary soundscapes (systemic behavior and species’ communication codes) can  constitute a distinctive heritage insofar as they highlight the evolutionary mechanisms in the long-term cross-adaptation of species communities. 

  • Soundscape as distinct marker to document extinction:

Archiving sonic fragments of endangered ecosystems can be used as a complementing resource in the assessment of the depletion of ecosystems (Red List of Ecosystems).

  • Soundscape aesthetics as a criterium for conservation:

Structure and pristine behavior of a soundscape can complement existing criteria for the identification of protected areas (World Heritage sites).

  • Soundscape as a medium for ecological awareness:

Access and intimate witnessing to the aesthetics of sonic fragments of endangered ecosystems as a powerful  option to enhance public awareness on the extinction crisis

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