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Moth Music (Nocturne) 

(2015) for two instruments and electronics

duration = 10'

instrumentation: two instruments with a brassy quality such as sax and trumpet + fixed media audio playback.


MB note: "This music was composed for moths and humans. Moths hear with two feather-like ears on their thorax. The sound is performed for humans, recorded, and transposed up into the range of moth hearing, which is entirely outside of the range of human hearing. Moths only use their hearing to detect bat calls and I wanted them to have something pleasurable to listen to, instead of only imminent death. Also, the music is designed to disrupt bat echolocation, so the moths are safer while listening to this music."


The instrumental music, composed to sound pleasing to both moths and humans, is transposed into the ultrasonic hearing range of the moths. The instrumental timbres will stimulate the moth’s unique hearing apparatus. The music is soft and smooth because moth's ears are delicate and won't appreciate loud or sudden sounds. The music does not have a regular pulse or percussive quality because this might remind the moths of bat echolocation signals which would be frightening. The ensemble is a duo because the moths have two ears of different sizes and the two instruments will resonate them differently. They might hear a timbral stereo quality. The gentle swishing noise generator sound enveloping the horn music will help block bat echolocation calls and the moths might feel comfortable in their environment without fear of bat attacks. Moths probably don’t think abstractly, and so the moth music is purely physiological. By contrast, the idea that the moths are listening to the same music in a different range will interest the human mind.


The instrumental timbres and two-part counterpoint are also composed to sound well to humans. The filtered noise accompanying the instruments might remind a human listener of wind or water, and this might also feel calming. In an installation context, the human mind will couple the image of the moth movement and the sound of the music, and one might imagine that the moths are dancing to the music.

Moth Music (Nocturne) (2015)

  • Performance materials include a PDF score and fixed media electronic track

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