These artists use music to advocate for conservation

By Miranda Tom 19 December 2022
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Can music stir you to protect the environment?

These talented musicians believe it can and after hearing the emotive soundscape in the Australian Geographic: Our Country immersive experience, it’s clear that sound plays a crucial role in connecting audiences to their natural surroundings.  

“We’re passionate about music, but we’re perhaps equally as passionate about nature,” says Anthony Albrecht, co-founder of The Bowerbird Collective. 

Bowerbird Collective composed and performed music for the cinematic experience, Australian Geographic: Our Country – an exquisite marriage of iconic Aussie wildlife and achingly beautiful landscapes displayed across massive screens. Other contributors include Indigenous artist Gambirra Illume whose composition and voice opens and closes the experience, as well as Listening Earth’s Andrew Skeoch who provided nature recordings to accompany the stunning footage in the exhibition. The separate and diverse auditory elements were pieced together by sound mixer Derek Allan, in an incredible, free-flowing, 360° surround soundscape.  

The music composed by Bowerbird Collective is powerful and perfectly complements the natural soundscape – water trickling down rock faces, wombats crunching through snow or storms raging in the sky. 

It’s the humble yet commanding nature of The Bowerbird Collective’s melodies that makes it a perfect fit for the project. The music doesn’t compete with the audio recordings of native wildlife and the Australian bush but works harmoniously to accentuate them. Incredible sounds of the cello and violin are integrated throughout the immersive experience as a clever transition between different Australian habitats, taking the audience on a breathtaking journey through the seasons.  

“Music is such an extraordinary tool and a universal language,” says Simone, co-founder of The Bowerbird Collective. “It’s a way to enhance the natural soundscape in the exhibition.

Anthony Albrecht and Simone Slattery, Bowerbird Collective at the Australian Geographic: Our Country exhibition. Image credits: Anna Lloyd; Miranda Tom

The Bowerbird Collective’s music is so steeped in the nature that it has dedicated albums to endangered species in the project Songs of Disappearance, which includes the chatter and calls of 53 of Australia’s most endangered birds. The album reached #3 in the ARIA charts, ahead of Taylor Swift, ABBA, and other artists earlier this year.

“Our dream is to be active as creative people, translating conservation stories into live performance and engaging experiences,” Anthony says. “The goal is really to strengthen emotional connections to nature.”

The duo hope that this connection will inspire people, both nationally and internationally, to protect the natural wonders of Australia. And, as if the sound of the strings aren’t emotional enough, the history of the instruments adds an extra layer of depth. Simone’s violin was made in Paris in 1726 and Anthony’s cello was made in London in 1740 – both extremely old, well-cared for instruments. It’s no wonder the sound resonates so remarkably against the imagery of Australia’s ancient land.  

If you’re lucky enough to see the immersive experience, make sure to relish in both the sights and sounds as they work together to encompass the incredible land that is Australia.  

Karina Holden, three–time Emmy Award winner and producer of Our Country, summarises the pairing perfectly: “The images will blow you away, but it is the sound that will hold you in its embrace.” 

Have a listen to a sample and hear for yourself:

Dawn Chorus with an excerpt from Arvo Pärt’s Fratres – performed by the Bowerbird Collective from their album ‘Where Song Began’ and featured in ‘Our Country’

Australian Geographic: Our Country is open at the ICC in Sydney until 5 February 2023 and The Bowerbird Collective is on tour in Western Australia in January 2023.

Related: Help these endangered frogs top the ARIA Charts