Listening Is As Listening Does

is a composition that simulates the principles of echolocation, a system of listening that allows bats, and other animals, to navigate. Listening Is As Listening Does is a dynamic sound work, composed to project a sound and listen for the echoed response. The piece emerges as information from echoes is mined, the data from which contributes to new compositional choices.

Listening Is As Listening Does asks how we listen and how we respond to listening, and posits what a performance of listening might sound like. It also positions the listener as a variable within the piece, as their presence will affect the reflections of sound amidst the architecture, compelling the work to navigate new compositional terrain.

But why echolocation and why focus on bats? Bats are fascinating creatures, navigating the world with unique sensorial systems that beg exploration. However, the inspiration for Listening Is As Listening Does came from my first tour of Caramoor when I learned that the bats, long time inhabitants of Caramoor’s Spanish Courtyard, have been disappearing due to the spread of White Nose Syndrome. White Nose Syndrome is a disease that has, alarmingly, wiped out over five million bats in the Northeast. Caramoor’s caretakers miss the night creatures for several reasons, including their voracious appetite for mosquitos and pollination capabilities. For Caramoor, and those of us intrigued by their strikingly poetic behaviors, I invite you to ponder what we can learn from bats, as well as their place within our ecosystem.

— Suzanne Thorpe


2014 Exhibit. Video by Caryn Waechter.

Suzanne Thorpe. Photo by Shimpei Takeda

Suzanne Thorpe

Suzanne Thorpe is a musician/composer who works in a spectrum of modalities, fixed and improvised, installed and recorded. She plays electro-acoustic flute through an ever-evolving array of analog and digital effects, incorporating laptop upon whim. Her way is to listen for just-the-right sounds and timbres, and the appropriate moments to introduce them to each other.

Her composed works tend to be site-specific sound pieces that speak of, and with, their environment with an amalgam of sound sources, bringing forth moments of possibility and multiplicity. Her work has been shown and performed internationally, including All Tomorrow’s Parties (UK and U.S.), Roskilde (DK), The New Museum (NYC), Issue Project Room’s Floating Points Festival (NYC), Activating the Medium Festival (San Francisco), No Idea Festival (Austin), High Zero Festival (Baltimore), and exhibited at Klieo Gallery (NYC), Exit Art (NYC), Mills College (Oakland), California College of the Arts (Oakland) and more.

As an improviser she has enjoyed performing with Pauline Oliveros, Zeena Parkins, Gino Robair, Chris Brown, Zbigniew Karkowski, Anti-matter, Ulrich Krieger, Miguel Frasconi, Jenny Walsh, Miya Masaoka, Nate Wooley and Mazen Karbaj among others. She also has recurring collaborations with Philip White, Stephan Moore, and Bonnie Jones.

She has released over 20 recordings on labels such as Sony, V2, Beggars Banquet, Geffen, Specific Recordings, and Tape Drift, and was a founding member of critically acclaimed Mercury Rev, with whom she performed, recorded and toured from 1989–2001, earning a gold record for 1998’s Deserter’s Songs. She can more recently be heard on J Mascis’ solo record Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop) and Pauline Oliveros’ Primordial Lift (Lovely Records).

Ms. Thorpe has been the recipient of residencies and fellowships from Harvestworks Digital Media Foundation, Meet the Composer, and NYFA. She also was awarded the Frog Peak Collective Award for innovative research in the electronic music field. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Music/Integrative Studies at University of California San Diego.


2014 Installation and Interview. Video by Caryn Waechter.