Photo: KQED

Music in Our Natural World: A Concert and Conversation

Sunday, August 6, 2017
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • This event is presented in partnership with the La Jolla Historical Society and their exhibition Weather on Steroids: the Art of Climate Change.
  • Eligible for Learning Track Credit
    • Museum Members receive a 10% ticket discount

    Event Details

    Presented in partnership with the La Jolla Historical Society, we welcome composer, performer, and instrument-builder Cheryl E. Leonard for an evening of music that explores our natural world. Through musical soundscapes, Cheryl investigates how climate change is transforming environments and ecosystems in the remote polar regions and here at home in California. Leonard’s compositions combine sounds from natural-object instruments with field recordings of natural soundscapes. On stage she plays an array of amplified stones, wood, water, sand, seaweed, shells, feathers, and bones. Some objects are played “as is.” With others, Leonard has created one-of-a-kind musical sculptures. The unique voices of these unconventional instruments intertwine with carefully edited field recordings of oceans, streams, lakes, glaciers, storms, and wildlife.

    Leonard will perform works from Antarctica: Music from the Ice, a series of compositions developed from her experiences on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2008-2009 as a grantee of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. She will also share music inspired by her 2011 residency in Svalbard, an archipelago in the High Arctic north of mainland Norway. Leonard’s polar works relate to melting tidewater glaciers, loss of sea ice, endangered wildlife, changes in weather patterns, and the threat of increased development in the far north and far south. Several California-themed works will also be played, including recent pieces about drought, sea level rise, and the loss of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada. Leonard’s live musical performance will be accompanied by videos from visual artists Rebecca Haseltine, Oona Stern, and Genevieve Swifte.

    After the show, Leonard will be joined by scientists Sasha Gershunov and Art Miller for an audience Q&A followed by a wine and cheese reception.


    Guest Details


    Cheryl E. Leonard

    Cheryl E. Leonard

    Glass shards and pinecones, glaciers, boxspring mattresses, a flock of accordions, circular saw blades, viola, the erhu, hyenas and whales and elk, Cheryl E. Leonard’s music finds its raw materials just about anywhere. From these diverse sources come works that embrace the spectrum of musical possibilities: improvised to composed, acoustic to electronic, diaphanous to bombastic, notes to noise. Over the last decade Cheryl has focused on investigating sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Many of her recent works cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments. Leonard uses microphones to explore the micro-aural worlds contained within her sound sources and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices they contain. Her projects often involve constructing one-of-a-kind sculptural instruments that are played live on stage. She is particularly interested in collaborating across artistic disciplines and developing site-specific works.

    Cheryl holds a BA from Hampshire College and an MA from Mills College, both in music composition. She studied composition and electronic music with Alvin Curran, Chris Brown, George Lewis, Frederic Rzewski, Laeticia Sonami, Salvatore Macchia, and Alan Bonde; and performance art with Moira Roth, Carole E. Schneemann, and Betsy Damon.

    Leonard’s music has been performed worldwide. Her work with natural object instruments has been featured on KQED TV's local arts show Spark, the Hallmark Network's New Morning Show and CBS's Evening Magazine, as well as in Tim Perkis's documentary film Noisy People. She is the recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, ASCAP, the American Music Center, the Eric Stokes Fund, Meet the Composer, and the American Composer's Forum. She has been awarded residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, the Arctic Circle, Engine 27, the Paul Dresher Ensemble ARC Program, and Villa Montalvo. Leonard has been commissioned to create music and instruments for Kronos Quartet, the Illuminated Corridor, and Michael Straus. Recordings of her music are available from Nexmap, Ubuibi, Great Hoary Marmot Music, Pax Recordings, Unusual Animals, Apraxia Records, 23 Five Inc, Old Gold Records, and The Lab.

    Cheryl's many collaborations with artists from other disciplines include Adfreeze Project with visual artist Oona Stern, Sila with visual artist Genevieve Swifte, Tides:Estuary with visual artist Rebecca Haseltine, and numerous works for dance, film and video. She has created sounds for several exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and, over the past two decades, has played in many experimental music ensembles and noise bands. These days she sometimes performs with Thomas Carnacki and Big City Orchestra.

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