The Drumming of the Moths

Paul Walde makes artsy percussion music from insect behavior

| July-August 2011

Flying insects are unwelcome visitors at outdoor nighttime events, but Canadian artist Paul Walde relies on them for his Composition for Light, Percussion and Ultrasound. Walde arranges a cluster of tom-tom drums containing high-powered lights that shoot beaming columns into the sky, then mikes and greatly amplifies the sound created by moths as they flit into and skitter across the drumheads. “It’s a rare treat to appreciate insects as musical artists,” writes Jonathan Bunce in the Canadian magazine Musicworks (Spring 2011), noting that “the bugs’ percussive performance provides an ongoing yet irregular rhythmic backdrop for the occasional high-pitched blasts of prerecorded sonar.” The blasts are ultrasonic recordings of bats, Walde explains on his website, “triggering an evasive response from the moths, who fall from the sky, landing on the drums as groups.” “I’m interested in fusing nature and culture and trying to come up with things that are interesting,” says Walde. “The piece looks to interpret nature however it happens in real time.”

cover-166-thumbnailHave something to say? Send a letter to This article first appeared in the July-August 2011 issue of Utne Reader

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265