Sounds Too Many
Lecture performance by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza
September 27, 2019
Ocean Space, Venice

Allan Sekula, Middle Passage, chapter 3, Fish Story, 1994. Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Collection
Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sounds Too Many, 2019, Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy. Photo: Enrico Fiorese.
Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sounds Too Many, 2019, Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy. Photo: Enrico Fiorese.

Sounds Too Many is an immersive lecture-performance by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza that places the ocean at center stage at a time when sound pollution is exploding by using sophisticated audio engineering and visualizations to put things into perspective.

This primarily acoustic presentation will create an immersive experience that calls into question the unlimited and unregulated sonic pollution that the Anthropocene era has imposed on our oceans and the disruption that this causes to all natural phenomena. It is a call for a quieter ocean.

Sound operates completely differently in the ocean than it does on land, traveling eight times faster underwater than it does elsewhere. Sound is critical for marine life and is the primary way that many species navigate, hunt, mate, and socialize. 

Noise pollution caused by shipping, military operations, mining, and energy exploration has increased tenfold in the last 50 years, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. A recent study found that shipping noise could double by 2030, but new environmental guidelines for shipping could simultaneously reduce both carbon and sound emissions. It is a matter of survival for many species in the ocean, from the bottom to the top of the food chain, that we curtail our chemical and noise pollution and ban certain practices that are destructive beyond measure. These can and must be replaced with new systems and practices that will help the oceans regenerate.

There is hope! Public awareness and the responsiveness of policy makers to critical scientific research in this field is leading to mounting pressure for cleaner, quieter oceans.

New regulations as well as incentives for sustainable engineering are being adopted by our governments and industry alike as part of a growing campaign for cleaner energy. Some of these efforts are driven by successful lawsuits pitting nature against humankind. New sustainable technology is producing much quieter engines and leading to the creation of far less invasive systems used for mapping the marine floor.

In collaboration with the Acoustic Ecology Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the award-winning NRDC documentary Sonic Sea, TBA21–Academy expeditions, the sound artist Jana Winderen, and other contributors, never-before-heard sounds have been spatialized by sound engineers from Ears Up Sound Design Studio in Burbank, California, in partnership with Meyer Sound Laboratories, to create Sounds too Many, an immersive soundscape that will transport listeners to a world that is terrifyingly brutal.

Visualizations by Territorial Agency will be tightly synchronized with the soundscapes to provide visceral insights into the scale and mechanics of the ecological threat that is sound pollution in the ocean.

"The thing about ocean noise is when we stop making it, it goes away."
–Michal Jasny, Sonic Sea
This experience is intended for diverse audiences and performance spaces. 
Duration: 25 min.
May 6, 2019 - PREMIERE
Ocean Week at Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Trondheim, Norway

May 17, 2019
European Maritime Day
Lisbon, Portugal

September 27, 2019
Ocean Space
Venice, Italy

Paris, France

Los Angeles, California

San Diego, California
Written and performed by
Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza

Produced by
Phil Hoelting of Magazine Projects

Sound design by 
Ears Up Sound Design 

Research coordinated by
Linz Wilbur, University of Hawaiʻi   

Visualisations by
Territorial Agency  
Project manager
Petra Linhartova, TBA21            

Sound engineering by

Technical support by
Meyer Sound Laboratories

Special recordings
Jana Winderen
Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Discovery of Sound in the Sea
TBA21-Academy Sound Archive