Paco Contreras


The Swan Song. First Act

Imagina Festival


Technic advise from Juan Manuel García Soto

San Javier, 2010

The Swan Song is an interactive sound piece composed by four acoustic modules, which are activated to people's passage thanks to some movement sensors. With its installation in the Parque Almansa, I was trying to create some artificial soundscapes which they were strange to that place.

Each module played a different pre-recorded sound coming from the scope of activities generated by human being: a hydraulic drill, a motor from a building machine, the boot's melody of the Windows operating system and a football supporters chant.

Singing the swan song it figuratively refers to the last act or performance of a person. Though swans never sing -at most they emit a hoarse sound-, there is an ancient legend which says that they emit the most melodious sing as premonition to their own death, according to Marcial and the poet Virgil.

Since the figurative idea of the swan song as a last and extraordinary effort prior to something's or someone's death, this project puts an artificial voice to trees, a voice that is a reflection of the Human, it is in contrast to Nature's sounds.

It is a last agonizing chant that returns us sounds generated by the human technosphere


that it threatens the survival of the natural environment.

View of one of the sound modules installed in a branch of a tree Photograph of one of the modules when It has been activated to the passage of a person A speaker attached to a branch of a ficus tree.

It is intended to create a feeling of estrangement in the viewer-listener faced with those sounds which remind us the urban life, sounds that are so far from common calm that it occurs in parks, and by extension, in Nature.

This effect of spacial transfer can serve to create a kind of Museum of the Human in the open air. The contrast should produce the viewer reflection about the future of civilization and what we will leave behind, what it will disappear with the progress

or what we will be forced to reproduce more or less artificially like in a still life


exercise in Morel's


purest style.

I wonder if within several decades forests will have disappeared and instead we will put theme parks, in whose bowels, machines will be keeping the memory of the Earth.

General view of the Parque Almansa with a tree where I had placed one of the modules of the Swan Song piece. One of the moments of the placement of a module in a tree
We can see a ficus tree and can see as a motion sensor descends by its trunk. Module hung from a pine tree to 6 metres tall

(1) Technosphere is the set of artificial media that supports the development of human society and that evolves into an analogy of the biosphere, with which it interacts. Humans act on the environment to meet various needs and create or manufacture agricultural, industrial, road and urban landscapes.

Natural resources used by humans are classified, according to the possibility of recovery, in two large groups:
- Renewable natural resources: they are those that can be recovered in a short period of time by natural processes, such as the soil, the air, among others.
- Non-renewable natural resources: they are those who have a limited existence, and may be run out, such as iron, bauxite, oil, water and other minerals.

Changes in the environment attributed to human activities can be defined as environmental impact.

(2) In Spanish traslation, English language's words for still life have different connotations and if we translate it literally it means there is something still alive, what it is a serious contradiction to the common sense in reference to an nonliving object such as a painting or a sculpture.

(3) In reference to the book The Invention of Morel (1940) by Adolfo Bioy Casares, where a machine invented by a scientist reproduces cyclic and exactly a very period of life of the inhabitants of an island.

Sound files used in the piece:

Sound 1

Sound 2

Sound 3

Sound 4

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