Real-time sonification of an ant colony, unveiling parallels between ant and human societal structures.

Bioacoustics Exhibit

Scenic Designer • Modelmaker • Fabricator

'Anthesizer: Spine' merges scientific observation, sound design, and artistic expression to provide a unique auditory insight into the intricate logistics of harvester ant colonies (Veromessor pergandei). We transform the ants' social behaviors into a real-time sound synthesis, offering an immersive experience that bridges the natural rhythms of these insect communities with advanced technology.

Inspired by the striking similarities between ant and human societies, Anthesizer explores the complex processes involved in the ants' collection, storage, and distribution of food. By transforming ecological data into a rich sensory experience, "Anthesizer: Spine" encourages a deeper understanding of nature, creating an experience that resonates on an emotional level through the lens of technology and design.

Conceived in collaboration with Sound Designer and ant enthusiast Byunkyu Lee, 'Anthesizer: Spine' delves into the intricate logistics of harvester ants (Veromessor pergandei) as they meticulously transport, store, and distribute food and nutrients. Predominantly seed feeders, these ants engage in a systematic process, collecting various seed types and sorting them into chambers, before relocating them to deeper storage chambers within their nest. This process unfolds within a network of small, interconnected modular nests, reminiscent of a human spine—the structural core that underpins our body, echoing the crucial role of logistics in both ant and human societies.

In an otherworldly setting, ants are portrayed as "performers" and "improvisers," encouraging viewers to empathize with these insects and appreciate their sophisticated social structures. The project invites audiences to see ants not just as insects but as integral parts of a broader, interconnected ecosystem. The installation features a meticulously crafted outworld complete with embedded fiber optic lighting and a UV-reactive landscape that responds to sound-reactive lighting. Four contact microphones monitor designated seed-filled areas within the outworld, capturing the subtle sounds of the ants' activities.


Four contact microphones are strategically placed within the Outworld, each monitoring a seed-filled area designated as site A, B, C, and D.

The Nest functions as the residence for the queen and her broods, and also as the primary site for food storage. It is divided into two distinct sections—Nest 1 (Sorting Chamber) and Nest 2 (Storing Chamber)—with each section equipped with a single contact microphone.

Piezo microphones are ingeniously embedded within each nest, capturing the subtle audio signals produced by the ants. These signals are then amplified and processed through MaxMSP, a sophisticated sound synthesis software, transforming the colony's activities into an immersive soundscape. 

This project is part of Byunkyu Lee's 'Anthesizer' soundscape series, blending art, science, and engineering. Inspired by the striking similarities between ants and humans, it explores their world through a unique lens that fuses scientific inquiry with artistic expression. These thought-provoking works challenge our perception of the world and invite us to reflect on our complex relationship and interconnectedness with nature. Click here if you want to see more

This project was showcased at ICAD 2023 (Sweden), SEAMUS 2023 (New York), CalArts Expo 2023, and Maker Music Festival 2023, .

Sound Designer and Ant Keeper
Byunkyu Lee

Scenic Designer, Modelmaker and Fabricator
Pablo de Larrañaga Aramoni