Marcus Coates, Dawn Chorus

Dawn Chorus by Marcus Coates, image courtesy Tom Thistlethwaite
Dawn Chorus by Marcus Coates, image courtesy Tom Thistlethwaite

Fabrica, 3 April – 25 May 2015

Dawn Chorus is an immersive multi-screen film installation that uses unique digital methods to explore the relationship between birdsong and the human voice, and similarities between bird and human behaviour.

Nineteen individual singers uncannily recreate birdsong and bird movement. Together they form a chorus that accurately simulates the sounds and timings of a natural dawn chorus. With each singer depicted in an everyday location: an underground car park, an osteopathic clinic, a bedroom, a bathtub, Dawn Chorus is as much a portrait of British people and their daily habits as it is of the natural world.

Dawn Chorus was produced in 2007. Marcus Coates worked with scientist Peter McGregor who specialises in birdsong and animal behaviour, and notable birdsong expert and wildlife sound recordist Geoff Sample. To record the dawn chorus they used a unique method to capture the individual birdsongs and their inter-species song timings. By predicting where individual birds would sing and through trial and error they recorded 14 individual songs simultaneously. Thereby creating an accurate document of which species of birds sing in relation to others at what time in the morning. They recorded at three different sites in Northumberland between 3am and 9am over seven days using a 24 track digital recorder.

Dawn Chorus was originally commissioned and produced by Picture This in 2007, premiered at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and was financially supported by the Wellcome Trust. It is part of the Arts Council Collection at Southbank, who kindly loaned the work to Fabrica.

Fabrica was delighted to work with Brighton Festival 2015 as a co-presenter of Dawn Chorus, and Ali Smith who as Festival Guest Director has invited us to ‘imagine the world seen from the eye of a bird’. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere (BLDB) were also event partners for the exhibition.