Jon McCormack and Gary Warner


collaborative work in the exhibition:

a quivering marginalia  2016

4m diameter geodesic dome structure (jarrah, aluminium, shoji paper), custom bench seat,

15 x custom-built digital audio devices, custom software, digital audio media

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

catalogue text:

a quivering marginalia

Jon McCormack and I have been friends and creative colleagues since the mid 1980s. Sound art and audio field recording have been important aspects of each of our creative practices for decades. Our latest collaborative work a quivering marginalia derives its source media from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology1, the world’s largest collection of animal sound recordings (bioacoustics).

While the raison d’être of the Macaulay Library is an encyclopaedic collection of sounds made by animals, many of the 200,000+ recordings also include spoken word by the scientist-recordist, who is usually alone in the field, often isolated. These may be pragmatic records of time, date, place and weather, or descriptions of observed behaviour, reflective interpretation or extemporaneous pondering.

We have worked with these spoken word elements to create a new experiential space for reflection on human engagement with the rest of the natural world, the ambitions and everyday practice of science, and the zones of semantic ambiguity and poetic potential that arise when data is decontextualised and re-presented.

Our interests are in the scientist as enquirer, engaged with other species through imagination; the spaces of mind generated through patient observation; the ways in which we humans attempt to understand the motivations and actions of other species; and the similarities of process evident in the activities of scientists and artists.

The listening experience is housed within the architectural space of a custom-built timber geodesic dome clad in Japanese shoji paper. At each of 15 vertices inside the dome, small high-quality speakers deliver the spoken word elements. Other speakers deliver atmospheric soundscapes derived from our personal field recording libraries. A pentagonal bench seat allows visitors to sit comfortably while listening, to encourage durational engagement with the work.

Technically, we developed a unique multi-channel multi-speaker modular digital audio system, using contemporary speaker technology, tiny credit-card sized computers and amplifiers, and wi-fi control. The speaker network is activated by a custom generative software engine, written by Jon to allow us to explore a variety of aleatoric compositional strategies.

Gary Warner

Sydney 2016



speaker, computer and wifi unit in custom 3D-printed housing attached to timber geodesic dome hub