David Dunn, USA, 1953; and James Crutchfield, USA, 1955


David Dunn is a research scientist, sound recordist, electroacoustic composer, and professor who started his career working with natural world soundscapes. His life work has been compiled into a collection called Music, Language and Environment: A Thirty Year Retrospective (1999), excerpts of which are available from his website.

James Crutchfield has links with science and music, having a B.A in Physics and Mathematics from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1979, and completing his Ph.D in Physics in 1983 at the same University where he is currently Professor of Physics. For this and more information, see his official page.

One of Dunn and Crutchfield’s most famous works is The Sound of Light in Trees (2006) which is an electroacoustic piece using only the sounds recorded in pine trees made by the Pinyon Engraver Beetle, which came from a research project.

Their research into the destruction of pine forests stemmed from a major outbreak in the infestation of these beetles in the conifers, leading to the understanding that the majority of the trees will perish. They hypothesised that when the trees become dehydrated, they emit light and ultrasound which the beetles can hear and make use of, as these sounds act as a signal to the beetle that a tree is able to be invaded for food and a colony. The beetles carry a fungus which also attacks the tree, killing it more quickly which in turn helps the beetle to increase their numbers more quickly causing a cycle which would lead to vast numbers of trees being lost.

Dunn and Crutchfield used a custom-built device which would be inserted into a specific distance into the tree where the beetles live. The vibrations the beetles make are very slight but this device was able to pick them up, so by recording and analysing the data they were able to link the events together.

For full details and insight into this project, please visit the liner notes of the release: The Sound of Light in Trees: The Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines.

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Photo: Rensselaer Sustainability Research Project. (2015). David Dunn. Retrieved from http://sustainabilityresearch.wp.rpi.edu/event/talk-david-dunn-sonic-interventions-into-hidden-sound-worlds-a-composer-at-the-edge-of-science/

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Photo: Art and Science Laboratory. (2015). James Crutchfield. Retrieved from http://artscilab.com/ASL/Jim_Crutchfield.html

Dunn and Crutchfield have co-founded the Art and Science Laboratory which is based in the state of New Mexico which facilitates scientific and artistic research collaborations.