“A Common Babble” is a dialogue mediated by technology about human and non-human bodies, shared environments, and legacies. The sound installation brings together eco-acoustics, field recordings, electroacoustic compositions and translations of bird songs sung by vocalists to create a form of non-linguistic storytelling. This gesture speculates on the empathic possibilities across species and habitats. In its installation, the soundscapes come together as a choral-like experience and immersive audio environment.

Bodies of both birds and humans can then be conceived of as sites of knowledge, holding and continuing ancestral narratives. Songbirds teach their kin to sing through mechanisms similar to those that humans use to teach language and storytelling. Chicks memorize songs taught to them by their family and develop unique adaptations of them. As their songs and voices mature, their generational knowledge remains present on their note sequences. With both birds and humans, language and teachings tie us to legacies and histories; changing over time and evolving with each generation.

Many species of birds observe and repeat human languages, and from hunters to ornithologists, there is a long history of humans observing, studying, and imitating birds. “A Common Babble” examines this drive for communication and understanding across species despite certain impossibilities and asks: what can be exchanged in an act of speech?

“A Common Babble” was made possible with the creative and sonic support of Yoon Rachel Nam and the vocalic contributions of Adam Schimdt, Anna Atkinson, Cedric Noel, Daniela Madrid, Drew Bathory, Edward Reilly, Fabienne Audeoud, Gabrielle Giguere, Galilei Uajenenisa Njembo, Julie Silva, Maxence Ferland, Mihnea Nitu, Patricia Yates, Sara Schabas, Soukayna, and Rihab Essayh.

The research and development for “A Common Babble” was made possible thanks to the financial support of Canada Council for the Arts. The production of this work was made possible thanks to the financial support of Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.