Signal / Return

by Kelly Markovich
with support from Centre for Art Tapes

Allow yourself to be enveloped by the euphonious and, at times, cacophonous vocalization of bats. Signal / Return is an immersive sound art piece that uses sound ecology to examine acoustic relationships between living organisms - human and non-human - and their connections with the environment. In this piece, audio recordings of bat communication and echolocation are used to create a multichannel, spatial audio experience.

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Bats are one of the least understood and persecuted animals. Most people are frightened of bats because of unfounded myths associated with them. In actuality, bats are amazing mammals that contribute to the health of natural ecosystems by controlling insect populations, and there are some plants that depend on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds. They navigate space and find food in the dark by sending out sound waves from the mouth or nose, and when the signal hits an object a return echo is produced, providing the bat with essential information. Bats are communicative mammals with a wide range of vocalizations.

As the CFAT x Nocturne Summer Artist-in-Residence, I have been responding to this year's theme by relying on the sense of hearing and the action of deep listening. For this project, I sourced bat calls from the feeding ecosystems and roosts around the Atlantic Provinces. Deep listening requires a conscious choice to slow down, and since bats can be elusive, this was a necessary part of my process and contributed to the final composition of the work. This multichannel, immersive soundscape consists of 7 species of bats and over 24 different vocalizations.

With this piece, I invite listeners to enter the space and close their eyes to connect with the sounds on a deeper level. While engaging with Signal / Return, I ask individuals to discern the possibility of interspecies symbiosis within a shared landscape.

Considering the current climate and restrictions I have created two versions - the main piece will be screened in the project room at Centre for Art Tapes, 2238 Maitland St. on Friday, October 16, 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm, and Saturday, October 17, 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm. In the meantime, if you are interested in a teaser, I have partnered with Echoes and created a version that will be accessible virtually on Monday, October 12. Download the Echoes App @ https://echoes.xyz/ and search for the project, Signal / Return.


It was necessary to use specialized equipment to capture audio recordings of the bat sounds. I’d like to thank the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, PEI, for sharing information and resources; Parks Canada, PEI, for granting me recording access to the sites; CFAT for supporting this project and the endless supply of equipment and resources; and Nocturne for including my work in this year’s festival.

Bats are in trouble. A disease known as white-nosed syndrome has wiped out millions of bats in North America. Habitat loss, pesticide use, evictions from roost sites, and misinformation produce an added threat to already stressed populations. To learn more about how you can help, please visit Canadian Wildlife Federation @ https://cwf-fcf.org/en/explore...

Sound/Audio Art Digital Art