Saturday, December 18, 2010

Harpist Alice Giles Travels to Mawson Base

It's great to learn that another musician is heading to Antarctica. Harpist Alice Giles has received an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship to travel on the research vessel ‘Aurora’ to Mawson Base in February and March 2011.

Her trip celebrates the Centenary of the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which was led by Australian geologist Douglas Mawson (who the base is named after). Alice will be performing and recording music that was written especially for her trip as well as music that was heard in Antarctica 100 years ago. She'll also be recording Antarctic sounds for composers and students to use in compositional projects.

Visit Alice's blog for updates on her project and adventures -

Good luck Alice!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fraser's Penguins

Dwindling Adélie colonies on Torgersen Island

A new book has recently been released about the plight of the Adélie penguins near Palmer Station: Fraser's Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica by Fen Montaigne. In 2005 - 2006 the author spent five months at Palmer working as a research assistant to Bill Fraser, who has been studying the area's penguin populations for over 30 years. I just picked up a copy and am hoping to have a chance to read it over the holidays.

Speaking of which, if you are in need of a unique winter holiday gift/stocking stuffer, or simply have an urge to hear penguin gaks and ecstatic display calls, please consider purchasing a copy of my Antarctic field recordings cd, Chattermarks.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Live on Radio + Live on Stage

Women Hold Up Half the Sky
KALX 90.7 FM
Saturday, December 4th, 11 am - noon (Pacific Time)

This Saturday I'll be on the radio doing a short live performance, playing recordings of my work and talking about my many musical projects. KALX streams live online at:

Tuesdays at Tom's
Tuesday December 7th, 7:30pm
3111 Deakin Street
Berkeley, CA 94705
$ donation - all proceeds go to the artists

Here is your chance to see my ensemble and I play in the intimate setting of Tom Duff's lovely living room! I can't recommend the series enough. I've heard a lot of great music at Tom's place, plus there is usually an excellent array of free snacks and drinks. Please come join us as A.L. Dentel, Felix Macnee and I perform several of my Antarctic compositions plus some improvisations. Also on the bill is the quartet of Tim Perkis, Tom Djll, Scott Walton and Matt Ingalls, who are all great players and improvisers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Talk at the Museum of Craft and Design

Next week I'll be speaking at San Francisco's Museum of Craft and Design about my work with sound in Antarctica.

Designing with Sound: Recording Antarctica
Museum of Craft and Design Speaker Series Event

499 Castro Street (at 18th Street)
Wednesday, November 17
6:30 - 8 PM
Free to members of MCD. $10 non-members, $5 students

I will share stories and images from my Antarctic music project, play samples of field recordings from Palmer Station, and demonstrate several of my Antarctic-object instruments.

The presentation will be followed by a visit to the exhibition Transference, a glass and sound installation by Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose.

* My next performance of Antarctic compositions will be Tues, December 7th in Berkeley, CA.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Penguin Bone Instruments

The Coracoids - Adélie penguin coracoid bones mounted in driftwood and amplified via a contact microphone wedged in the wood. The coracoid is part of the penguin's shoulder girdle and is the pivot upon which its wings turn. I have been bowing the coracoids to produce eerie, howling sounds in my new piece White on White, which evokes the rapid decline of the Adélie colonies near Palmer Station.

The Octobone - is constructed from Adélie penguin femurs and tibias, again mounted in driftwood. The instrument is miked via a hydrophone embedded inside the underside of the wood. We have been playing the Octobone percussively and making sounds that blend with recordings of brash ice melting underwater.

I didn't want to damage the bones in either of these two instruments (if they broke, replacing them would likely take several years and a lot of grant-writing). So, instead of screwing or gluing them into the base, the bones are fitted into holes carved in the wood, and strapped and wedged in place with thick thread and tiny shims. After a few carving mishaps that resulted in minor injuries I discovered work gloves and refined my technique. Now my woodworking should involve less cursing and blood. Yay! More bone instruments coming soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Climbing on the Antarctic Peninsula

This past austral summer a French climbing team made a number of ascents of peaks along the Antarctic Peninsula, including a couple of mountains on Smith Island and Brabant Island that I sailed past on my trip.

Read about their expedition here:
Extensive photos from their adventures are posted at

And yes, I'm jealous!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Penguin Pieces - Live this Saturday

My ensemble and I will be performing a set of my Antarctic compositions live this Saturday night in San Francisco at the Lab as part of the Soundwave 4: Green Sound Festival. We will be premiering new works inspired by Adélie penguins, scored for natural-object instruments in combination with field recordings from Palmer Station, Antarctica. This time, our instruments will be penguin bones and nesting stones, Antarctic limpet shells, rocks from Breaker Island and more.

Our concert has received a nice write-up in the SFWeekly and is a featured event. Check out the article here:

Please note- we are playing first so don't be late or you could miss our set. Also, many of the shows in this festival have sold out so I recommend either arriving early or purchasing advance tickets.

Animosity in the Illuminated Forest
Featuring performances by composer Cheryl E. Leonard, multi-media artist Elise Baldwin, Norwegian artist Elin Øyen Vister

Festival Page:
Festival website:

Date: Saturday July 31st, 2010
Location: The Lab, 2948 16th Street, San Francisco
Time: 7:30 Doors, 8:00 Show
Tickets: $10-15 sliding scale

Infoline: 415.320.6685 or

Cheryl E. Leonard &
Elise Baldwin
Elin Øyen Vister &

Composer Cheryl E. Leonard performs music voicing the catastrophic decline of Adélie penguin colonies near Palmer Research Station in Antarctica. She will be joined onstage by A.L. Dentel, Felix Macnee and Cliff Neighbors, who will play amplified natural objects (including bones, shells and stones from Antarctica) together with field recordings from Palmer Station.

Multimedia artist Elise Baldwin presents her intermedia piece Chimera, part of the Ambit series, a group of live audiovisual turntable performances. The series focuses thematically on the circular nature of memory and the decomposition of physical presence over time.

Norwegian Sound Artist Elin Øyen Vister summons the sounndscapes and the decline of the pelagic seabirds Kittywakem Puffin and Guillemot in the Røst Archipelago in Northern Norway to our shores. With extensive time, research and recordings in the area, Vister investigates a haunting reality for the species.

Artist Talks Q&A will follow performances.

ANIMOSITY IN THE ILLUMINATED FOREST is part of Soundwave Festival ((4)), entitled GREEN SOUND running June 6 to August 13 2010. GREEN SOUND explores the natural world and environmental sustainability through innovative, interactive and experiential performances and exhibitions by over 75 local and international musicians from across the sonic spectrum (experimental to classical to popular music), sound artists, visual artists and filmmakers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Live on Internet Radio + Touch the Gear Expo

I'll be performing live on the UB Radio Salon on DFM Radio Television International, Wednesday July 14, 4-6 pm US Pacific Time.

The UB Radio Salon is two hours of live improvised music/sound art. This week guest artists Rob Wortman and I will join hosts ninah pixie and das of Big City Orchestra to explore the theme WATER ON STONE. Although our focus is not Antarctica, I will be playing my Antarctic rocks and mixing in several of my unreleased Antarctic field recordings. Tune in:

Archives of past UB Radio Salons (including an Antarctic-themed show I did with Anka Draugelates on 2/18/09) can be found at:

On Sunday July 18th the Outsound New Music Summit presents the Touch the Gear Expo, in which a wide range of San Francisco Bay Area musicians allow you to try out their unusual instruments and sound-making devices/set-ups. I'll be there with a selection of my natural-object instruments including several Antarctic instruments. Here is your chance to play penguin bones, limpet shells and stones from Antarctica, plus California pinecones, driftwood, bark and more.

Touch the Gear Expo
Sunday July 18, 2010 7-9 pm
San Francisco Community Music Center
544 Capp Street at 20th Street
San Francisco

Reminder: My next concert of Antarctic music compositions will be Saturday July 31st at the Lab in San Francisco, as part of the Green Sound Festival.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photos from April 17th Performance

Here are some images from our April 17th performance in 23five's Activating the Medium Festival at the Lab in San Francisco. Our next show will be July 31st in San Francisco.

Live video closeups of the instruments were projected behind us during the set

A.L. Dentel, Cliff Neighbors and Cheryl Leonard perform the wind piece "Greater Than 20 Knots"

Cheryl plays stone slabs from Breaker Island in "Brash Ice"

Felix Macnee on limpet shells and penguin bones in "Point 8 Ice"

Ann hangs icicles during the final piece

Ann and Cliff play beakers and petrie dishes along with drips from the melting icicles

By the end of the show the stage is covered with instruments
Photos by Randy Yau, except the last two which I took.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Penguin Pieces July 31st

My next Antarctic music concert will be July 31st in ME'DI.ATE's Green Sound Festival at the Lab in San Francisco. I'll be presenting a set of pieces inspired by Palmer Station's Adélie penguins, including several world premieres.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Activating the Medium: Ice

This weekend I'm part of 23five's Thirteenth Annual Activating the Medium Festival at The Lab in San Francisco.

On Friday night, fellow NSF Antarctic Artists Lisa Blatt and Michael Bartalos and I will be discussing making art in Antarctica.

Friday, April 16, doors at 8pm, panel discussion at 8:30, music at 9:15
$8 – $15 sliding scale or FREE with membership
Joshua Churchill
Adam Sonderberg
Panel / Lecture with Antarctic artists

Then on Saturday night my ensemble (A.L. Dentel, Cliff Neighbors, Felix Macnee) and I will be performing five my Antarctic compositions, including two brand new works featuring penguin bones and icicles played live on stage. This will be your last chance to see some of these Antarctic pieces in the San Francisco Bay Area. After this show I will continue working on Antarctic compositions but I will be writing and performing a new works.

Saturday, April 17, doors at 8pm, music at 8:30
$8 – $15 sliding scale or FREE with membership
Cheryl E. Leonard
Pedestrian Deposit
Jesse Burson

The Lab, 2948 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Rehearsal

Here are a few images from today's rehearsal. Our next performance will be in 23five's Activating the Medium Festival on April 17th in San Francisco.

Instruments for the wind piece "Greater Than 20 Knots"

Setups for the new melting glacier piece

The hanging water drippers will be replaced by icicles when we play live. In this piece water drips down into amplified glass beakers and petrie dishes. The stone slabs, from Breaker Island in Antarctica, will be played by rubbing and clinking ice across their surfaces.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Talk and Instrument Demo Thursday March 11

I'll be discussing my music and demonstrating my natural-object instruments, including several built with Antarctic materials, at this week's meeting of the Bay Area Computer Music Technology Group. It's free and all are welcome.

Presentations by Women Artist Technologists
Thursday March 11, 7pm
Grey Area Foundation for the Arts
55 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
more details

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chattermarks Field Recordings CD

Now available...

This new CD is a collection of field recordings of Antarctic wildlife and soundscapes from my January 2009 trip to Palmer Station. Tracks include sounds from Adélie penguins, southern elephant seals, brown skuas, brash ice, icebergs, glaciers, wind, and Antarctic storms.

I went to Antarctica to develop musical compositions, but I began by simply listening. Each day, as Oona and I explored Palmer's landscapes and ecosystems, I studied and recorded the wildlife and natural sounds I encountered. Of course, some of these field recordings I am incorporating into my musical compositions, but many of them are fascinating in their own right. This album is comprised of my favorite undeveloped Antarctic field recordings and I hope you will enjoy listening to the sounds of Palmer Station as much as I did.

You can buy the album as a digital download or on CD through Bandcamp. MP3s can be purchased through iTunes.

Special thanks to photographer Jon Brack whose images are on the cover and back of the CD. Several more of Jon's photos are inside the CD amongst the liner notes. Jon is currently working a second season down at Palmer Station. You can see more of his photographs here.

Recordings of my Antarctic musical compositions will be released in the future.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Activating the Medium Festival April 16-17

I am excited to announce that my next concert of Antarctic compositions will be in 23Five's Activating the Medium XIII, this April in San Francisco. The theme of this year's festival is ICE, so my work should fit right in.

I'm planning to premiere three new compositions in addition to performing the pieces I have already completed. The first new work is inspired by melting glaciers and will feature icicles played live onstage. The second will be a duet for penguin bones and penguin vocalizations, and the third will combine the limpet shell instrument with recordings of underwater ice. More details coming soon...

April 16, 2010
Joshua Churchill
Adam Sonderberg
Panel / Lecture hosted by Cheryl Leonard

April 17, 2010
Cheryl E. Leonard- Antarctic works
Pedestrial Deposit
Jesse Burson

The Lab
2948 16th Street (at Capp)
San Francisco, CA 94103

BASEbot Listening Salon Feb. 21

I will be sharing my Antarctic adventures, sounds, compositions and instruments at Bay Area Sound Ecology's BASEbot 005.

SUNDAY, February 21st, 2010
2:30 pm doors, starting promptly at 3
~an hour of formal presentations followed by Q&A and mingling.

at Dan Dugan Sound Design (directions)
290 Napoleon Street Studio E, San Francisco, CA 94124

Recordist, composer and instrument builder Cheryl E. Leonard will present field recordings from Antarctica, excerpts of works composed from those recordings, and a short musical instrument demo followed by a Q&A.

If there is sufficient interest and time, afterward there will be an open-salon listening and discussion period – providing an opportunity to play your short (under five minute) sound excerpts and to discuss ideas or works in progress. We will provide a CD player and minijack hookup for iPods and the like.

The event will be recorded and made available via BASE's forthcoming podcast. I will post a link to the podcast when it becomes available.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Women in Antarctica

The NSF has just posted an interesting article about the first American women in Antarctica. Check it out here.