When you think of bird songs you probably imagine sweet-sounding tweets, cheeps, and chirps. Our feathered friends can create beautiful sounds when they sing, but what if they got their claws on some instruments? Inspired by this idea, French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot created a space that allows birds to interact with 14 amplified guitars. His sound project, titled From Here to Ear, sees 70 zebra finches create unique sounds as they flutter, perch, and hop on the strings.
For the touring exhibition, Boursier-Mougenot turns the gallery space into an aviary. The 70 birds have plenty of space to fly, nest, and explore as they unknowingly create ambient sound. With a variety of whistles and calls, zebra finches are known to be very vocal. When in a room with multiple instruments, their natural sounds are beautifully complemented with the guitar twangs. Visitors can walk through the space and experience the sounds from various areas of the room.
So far, the show traveled to New York, Paris, Milan, and Montreal. For an early version of the exhibition shown in Paris, Boursier-Mougenot captured the birds himself and set them free after their 10-day performance. At all exhibits, a vet also comes each day to check on the health of the birds.
Boursier-Mougenot had wanted to create the project since his childhood. “Looking through the window, my feeling was that I want to make music from these birds on the wire,” he recalls. “And 30 years later I did this.” The artist claims that he had problems learning to play instruments throughout his life, so he wanted to invent his own method for making sound. By using the birds, he allows them to decide how and when the notes will be played. Boursier-Mougenot explains, “I often say for this piece that I have ‘flying fingers.’”
Check out clips from the sound installation below.