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Natural Car Alarms
Nina Katchadourian

A comment left on our post on Australia's lyrebirds pointed us to the work of Nina Katchadourian, specifically Natural Car Alarms, a piece which was installed in 2002 at several locations around New York.

For the exhibit, the Brooklyn-based artist hacked the alarms of three cars to emit not the natural soundtrack of the city but the sonic pattern of real birds. This urban automotive flock, in other words, was “re-edited” into counter-lyrebirds.

Nina Katchadourian

Katchadourian writes: “Almost as important as matching the sounds was finding a patterning that mimicked the swooping cries and punctuated honks of the familiar six-tone siren. They also needed to be as loud, intrusive, obnoxious and surprising as the real thing. Ideally, I wanted to replicate some of the ambiguity I had experienced in the forest, where the urban and the natural were suddenly very continuous. Car alarms were after all a completely natural part of the Long Island City landscape where the piece would be shown.”

It's worth pointing out that one of the mimicked birds is actually a Superb Lyrebird. This copying of a copier could have set out the marvelous scenario, in which a lyrebird, upon hearing its own song converted into a car alarm, proceeded to mimic its reprocessed mating call. And then Katchadourian comes along again intent on making another remix.

  • Jamie
  • April 20, 2011 at 4:09:00 AM CDT
  • Check out this remade version of the lyrebird vid! hilarious.

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