Friday, July 8, 2022

Antarctica: Music from the Ice album released!

I'm thrilled to announce that Antarctica: Music from the Ice is now available on CD and as a digital download from Other Minds Records. 

In the austral summer of 2008-2009 I traveled to Palmer Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula as a participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. During my explorations around the station I made field recordings of ice, water, wind, and wildlife. I also gathered (with the proper permits) rocks, shells, and penguin bones, which I later fashioned into the one-of-kind, sculptural instruments featured on this album. These sound sources are woven together into eight compositions about the Antarctic Peninsula's dynamic environments and ecosystems. 

You’ll hear bowed penguin bones howl along with Antarctic wind, icicles dripping in gamelan-like textures then shattering amongst calving glaciers, and kelp flutes duetting with the gentle snores of napping elephant seals. In this music I have sought to embody the joy and wonder I experienced in Antarctica. So many fascinating sounds! So much beauty! Stories of climate change on the western Antarctic Peninsula are also knitted into these compositions, as there was no way to make music about this place without reflecting on the profound transformations underway there. Even back in 2009, the effects of warming in the region were obvious and impossible to ignore: new islands unveiled by retreating glaciers, increasing populations of sub-Antarctic seals and penguins, moss and grass growing in areas previously buried under ice. I have embedded these stories in the music via instrumentation, playing techniques, melodies, rhythms, and organizational structures. 

Wandering around wind-whipped islands in search of howling seals, being lowered into glacial crevasses to record melting ice, experimenting with penguin bone playing techniques in my studio, fabricating icicles in my freezer, performing live on stage with limpet shells and penguin nesting stones - the process of creating this album has been a long, crazy, magical ride. I’m incredibly thankful to the many, many people and organizations that have supported this project over the years. I’m also honored that the album is included in Bandcamp’s Best Contemporary Classical Releases June 2022

I hope you’ll enjoy the sonic journey.

Antarctica: Music from the Ice is available from Other Minds Records via Bandcamp. The CD is also available from Soundohm in Europe. The album is accompanied a 28-page booklet containing photos, an essay about the project as a whole, and detailed liner notes for each individual piece. Graphic design was done by my Antarctic roommate and co-adventurer, visual artist Oona Stern

Monday, April 20, 2020

Chattermarks album re-released on Bandcamp

Just a quick note that I have re-released Chattermarks: Field Recordings from Palmer Station, Antarctica. It is now available from Bandcamp as a digital download or on CD. This makes the album more easily accessible to all (you can preview complete tracks), and I will get a better percentage of the sales (iTunes, Amazon, etc. take around a 30% share). 

Enjoy the penguins, seals, ice, and wind. Happy listening!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Environmental Sonic Art Exhibition at Western Carolina University

I am proud to have some of my Antarctic work on display in Resounding Change: Sonic Art and the Environment, an exciting exhibition that is up this fall in the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University in Cullowee, NC. The exhibition features contemporary artists who explore environmental issues through sound, and includes works by Matthew Burtner, Raven Chacon, Timothy M. Collins & Reiko Goto Collins, Gordon Hampton, Cheryl E. Leonard, Katie Paterson, Andrea Polli, and Lee Weisert. Audio, graphic scores, and penguin bone instruments from my compositions Lullaby for E Seals and White on White are on display. The exhibition runs August 20 - December 6, 2019. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Watershed - New Album Now Available!

New year, new album!!! 

I’m very pleased to announce the release of Watershed - available now via Bandcamp as a digital download or on CDYou can also get it from iTunes or CD Baby. Although not a collection of Antarctic compositions (that album is next on my to-do list, I promise!), this album includes plenty of ice sounds. Most notably, the entire piece Frozen Over is built on my Yosemite frozen lake field recordings (here is the post I wrote about recording these unearthly sounds).

Watershed contains three compositions (Confluences, Frozen Over, and Watershed) that explore water in California. Intertwining audio field recordings with sounds performed on natural materials, glass, and metal, these pieces feature the singular voices, rhythms, and sonic textures of water and ice, while reflecting on tough issues surrounding water in California, such as drought, flooding, and sea level rise. Thus, the album encompasses both my delight in discovering and creating with unique, surprising, and intricate sounds, and my concern for the future of our planet's environments and ecosystems. Each composition develops from a foundation of field recordings. Sounds from oceans, estuaries, lakes, streams, rivers, and caves are highlighted, including Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Windansea Beach, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and Lower Cathedral Lake and Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park. Emerging from these ambiences, are sounds I played on glass, driftwood, stones, shells, crab claws, bird bones, feathers, kelp flutes, Japanese bowl gongs, Nepalese bells, water, and sand. 

Confluences was originally created as an interactive sound/sculpture installation commissioned by the La Jolla Historical Society. In it, I wanted to give voice to the factors that produce extreme high sea level events and to consider vanishing coastal sites and sounds. Frozen Over emerged out of the drought winter of 2011-12, when I was able to record unusual sounds produced by frozen lakes in the high country of Yosemite National Park. Watershed was inspired by hydrology and California landscapes, and considers the journeys of water from precipitation into streams, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and the sea. Audiophiles please note: these pieces are also available from Bandcamp as high definition audio (up to 96Khz, 24 bit). The lovely CD cover art is by Rebecca Haseltine.

I hope you enjoy my latest musical offering. More releases are in the works for later in 2019.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Polar Music Performance September 20 in Brooklyn, NY

Still from Oona Stern's video for Glugge

I'm looking forward to performing my Arctic and Antarctic compositions in Brooklyn next month as part of the Musical Ecologies Series. I don't get out to perform on the East Coast often, so if you are in the area come check out this great series and see/hear my penguin bone instruments live!

In other news, I've been very busy in the studio over the past year or so and am finally almost finished mixing down the studio recordings of my Antarctic pieces. I plan to release them soon! Additionally I'm working on an album of music about water and climate change in California, and after that will come an album of Arctic music.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 20, 2018, 8:00 PM, $10

CHERYL E. LEONARD: Music from the Ice
The Old Stone House

in Washington Park, 3rd Street & 5th Avenue
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY – Map

The 2018-19 season of Musical Ecologies opens Thursday September 20 with San Francisco-based composer, performer, and instrument-builder Cheryl E. Leonard. Making a rare New York appearance, Leonard will present a set of music that investigates how climate change is transforming polar environments and ecosystems. Performing with an array of amplified stones, wood, water, sand, seaweed, shells, and bones, in combination with field recordings of natural soundscapes, she will perform works from Antarctica: Music from the Ice, a series of compositions developed from her experiences on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2008-2009 as a grantee of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Also included will be music inspired by a 2011 residency in Svalbard, an archipelago in the High Arctic north of mainland Norway. Her performance will be accompanied by videos from visual artists Oona Stern (Brooklyn) and Genevieve Swifte (Australia). The evening will begin with a conversation hosted by series curator Dan Joseph.
Now it its sixth season, Musical Ecologies is a monthly symposium on music and sound held at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Curated and hosted by composer Dan Joseph, each event typically focuses on a single artist who presents a work or project either in the form of a talk or lecture, a multimedia presentation, a performance, or combination thereof. Each presentation is preceded by an extended conversation with the curator and audience.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Polar Soundscapes concert in the San Francisco Chronicle

A very nice article about my polar music and upcoming May 11th concert was published in the San Francisco Chronicle last week. Check it out!

If you are planning on coming to this concert I highly recommend purchasing advance tickets and arriving early to get a good seat. The show is likely to sell out. You can buy tickets here:

And now, back to rehearsing with the ice and penguin bones...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Polar Soundscapes Concert May 11

Save the date! I've got a concert of polar music coming up on May 11 in Berkeley, California. This show will feature Meltwater, an Antarctic composition of mine which uses icicles "live" on stage, and several works with videos by visual artists Oona Stern and Genevieve Swifte.

7:30pm, $15 general, $12 students and teachers, $5 kids 12 and under
Advance tickets available here

David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

In this closing event for the Vanishing Ice exhibition, Other Minds and the Brower Center present composer, performer, and instrument-builder Cheryl E. Leonard, who will create a concert using Arctic and Antarctic field recordings and natural-object instruments including penguin bones, dried seaweed, ice, and seashells. Leonard, with Phillip Greenlief, will perform works about polar environments and climate change including Meltwater, a delicate and innovative composition produced with icicles. A post-concert Q&A will be hosted by Charles Amirkhanian.