Per Huttner at Östersjöfestivalen

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Trying out how a cod might feel during their mating season, is now possible thanks to a collaborative effort of between musicians, marine biologists and a neuroscientist. During Östersjöfestivalen, in Stockholm, they will together present a completely unique experience where you will be able to hear the mating sounds of the cod transformed into contemporary music.

The marine biologists write:

When cod gather to mate each spring, they do not just mix and mate with random partners. They have a complex mating ritual that involves both audio (“song”) and visual (“dance”) displays. The music is made when the males beat their ‘drumming muscles’ against their swim bladder to produce rhythms, usually while dancing around the female. Science has been able to show that males with larger drum muscles have more offspring, which indicates that this drumming is important for attracting partners.

At the “Center for Coastal Research, University of Agder” on the southern coast of Norway, we study how these drum behaviours vary between individual cod, what makes some individuals more attractive than others, and whether cod have different dialects depending on where they come from. The work takes place in specially designed pools where about 50 cod live throughout the mating season.

The researchers also use hydrophones to record the sounds that the cod make when they play. They use advanced filtering and classification algorithms based on machine learning and methods for determining sound direction to isolate the sounds from individual fish. They also use advanced technology to understand how the cod moves – both in their “everyday” and in their mating game.

The Vision Forum project consists of creating a platform for dialogue between humans and cod. We will partly use recordings of the cod’s mating sounds, as well as their movements (in real time) to create contemporary music for a human audience. The movements of the cod are measured digitally and can control different parameters of different musical instruments. At the same time and in a similar way, we measure the audience’s brain activity (using electroencephalogram) and let the measured values ​​reshape the recorded cod sounds, so that we can create music in real time for the cod underwater. The project thus constitutes a platform for seeing how one animal species’ bodily signals and behaviors can be heard by the other species – a kind of dialogue between fish and humans.

  • Per Huttner (Visual artist and musician, Stockholm)
  • John Andrew Wilhite (Musician, Oslo)
  • Rebekah Oomen (Marine biologist, Oslo)
  • Susanna Huneide Thorbjørnson (Marine biologist, Agder)
  • Robert Oostenveld (Neuroscientist, Nijmegen)

Location: Tekniska Museet
When: Saturday, September 2
Bar: Of course, a cod bar! What else?
Time: 14.00 – 17.00.

You can find more information about Östersjöfestivalen on Berwaldhallen’s website.

The project is supported by Statens kulturråd, Längmanska kulturfonden and Helge Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse.