Listen: David Dunn composition

October 2013

Stream or download a composition by musician and sound ecologist David Dunn, exclusive to The Wire. Dunn is featured in an article by Phil England in The Wire 357.

At the age of 14, David Dunn saw the American composer, music theorist and instrument builder Harry Partch on a television show, and decided to try and work with him. After making contact, Dunn helped Partch prepare a set of instruments for a documentary, eventually moving into Partch's basement and assisting him for four years, until Partch's death.

Dunn has since focused his work on environmental recordings, outdoor environmental composition and the limits of music and language. Since 2000, much of Dunn's work has taken place under the umbrella of the Art and Science Laboratory in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The laboratory is a non-profit organisation founded with physicist James P Crutchfield, who was part of a group of scientists involved in the development of chaos theory in the late 1970s.

Dunn says: “As a composer and a musician, I’ve been more interested in this idea that music may be something more than expressivity or emotional communication – although those are all parts of this larger framework and incredibly important to us, and to what makes us human. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker talks about music as evolutionary cheesecake, as it hasn’t had an evolutionary meaning or task attributed to it, but I’m suspicious that this is just not the case.”

Above, you can listen to a 2008 composition by Dunn, Listening To What I Cannot Hear as an MP3 stream. It is also available to download here as a higher quality WAV file (the latter is recommended by Dunn). The work is comprised of recordings of small objects, using a specially designed ultrasonic microphone to capture the frequencies usually above human perception. Click here to download Dunn's score and annotations for the composition.