Sounding Soil – Listening to the soil

Can you actually hear grass growing? What does the earthworm say to the centipede when they meet beneath the carrot field? What is the difference in sound from a vegetable field with organic soil and one with conventional ones? Biovision is one of those listening carefully as it is using the installation “Sounding Soil” to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of our soils.

In his art installation Sounding Soil, Marcus Maeder, the sound artist, researcher and composer is bringing to life the noises made by plants, insects and other organisms living in the soil. Biovision is supporting the project as it is using the sounds coming from the soil as a way of raising awareness amongst a wider public to the importance of soils. Most people are aware of other environmental factors, such as air and water pollution or global warming but remain much less aware of the value and importance of soils for the environment, nature and the human population. For example, healthy soil is the basis for both food and biodiversity and so is absolutely crucial. Through the Sounding Soil project, we want to help ensure that greater care is taken of our soils because they are so important for sustainable food systems.

The installation will be on display for the first time from 20 October to 25 November 2018 in the Paul Klee Centre in Bern. It then goes on tour. The walk-in installation, housed in a shipping container with a 3D Surround Loudspeaker System, makes you feel as though are in the soil and walking between the roots and animals. Visitors can touch the various screens to hear a range of soil recordings and obtain the relevant background information.

Citizen Science – You can take part

From Spring 2019, the public can take part in a scientific and artistic exploration of soils: Anyone who is interested or just curious can borrow the equipment and record sounds from the soil themselves. These recordings will then become part of the installation and a sound map of Swiss soils. By the end of project, there will be an extensive collection of sounds coming from our soils.  

What is so exciting is that you can examine and compare sounds from a very wide range of soils, e.g. allotments, wildflower meadows, grassland, arable fields, vineyards, orchards, permaculture soils, compost heaps, golf fairways and woodland.  In this way, the project will reflect a range of different methods of cultivation such as those using the Demeter, organic or IP-Suisse principles or conventional methods.

Raising awareness of the importance of healthy soils

The Sounding Soil project will make the Swiss public, including gardening enthusiasts, school groups, politicians and farmers more aware of the importance of healthy, species-rich soil for a sustainable future.

Sounding Soil is a cooperation between the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Swiss Soil Monitoring Network (NABO) at Agroscope, ETH Zurich and the Biovision Foundation.