I studied the internal structure of Azteca nests by dissecting 14 Cecropia trees. The trees have hollow, connected segments, called internodes, similar to bamboo. These internodes are where the colony resides - one colony per tree, distributed among its internodes. I counted the number of workers, larvae, entrances, and leaves, observed queen location, and created a computer program in MATLAB that translates that data into an internode-based audio representation - a musical composition. The program works by mapping the variables of the colony structure (worker population, entrances, queen location, etc.) to different musical parameters (tempo, pitch, vibrato, etc.) defined from the bottom to the top of a tree, which results in a unique audio composition for each tree.
- clicks: 1 per internode, spacing = height of internode
- lower melody: workers, number in internode = note frequency
- higher pure-tone melody: brood, number in internode = note frequency
- vibrato on melodies: scale insects, number in internode = vibrato period
- high-pitched buzzy pulses: queen's internode
- low-pitched thumps: entrances
- chord: root note triad changes to the 4th triad when internodes have leaves
Reverb was added later to accentuate the fact that these trees are now gone, sacrificed for science, but their colonies are immortalized through these treesongs. The track order plays from trees closest to my village to trees deep in the heart of the rainforest.
Released 21 December 2014
An animation syncing the visual and audio respresentations: