Singing Amongst the Weeds

Stephen Vitiello and Kasey Fowler-Finn, PhD.

March 8th - April 7th, 2019

Singing amongst the weeds is a sound installation and exhibition that brings to life the research and studies of biologist Kasey Fowler-Finn with spatial audio compositions of sound artist Stephen Vitiello. Fowler-Finn studies how temperature variation and global warming could affect communication in insects that use vibrations to communicate, as part of research funded by the National Science Foundation. This exhibition premieres new recordings and infographics focused on unique insect sounds that travel as vibrations through plant stems, featuring the songs of treehoppers, oak treehoppers, stink bugs, ebony bugs, and Japanese beetles. The sounds heard in the exhibition are not accessible in nature to the naked ear. Rather, recordings have been captured through monitoring surface vibrations by attaching scientific devices (lasers and accelerometers) to the stems of plants, flowers, tree branches, and various weeds. The recordings were made by Fowler-Finn and Vitiello in and around the grounds of Mountain Lake Biological Station, Pembroke, VA. Vitiello has created an immersive sound work in which sounds are grouped into four “chapters” that reflect insect vibrational songs heard within different temperature ranges — going from cool to hot. Each chapter of the sound mix is set to a color scheme in the gallery so that the listener knows when the lights are blue (for example) the sounds were recorded at a range of 17-18 Celsius. Accompanying text panels lead the listener through the biology and significance of vibrations, as well as the research that inspired the composition focusing on the role of the environment in the interaction and survival of these insects.

Design by Nix Shizheng Ni @nix_ni

Design by Nix Shizheng Ni @nix_ni

STEPHEN VITIELLO is an electronic musician and media artist. CD releases have been published by New Albion Records, Sub Rosa, 12k and Room 40. His sound installations and multi-channel works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon. Exhibitions include a site-specific work for NYC’s High Line, “Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” at the Museum of Modern Art; the 2002 Whitney Biennial; and the 2006 Biennial of Sydney. Over the last 25 years, Vitiello has collaborated with such artists and musicians as Pauline Oliveros, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taylor Deupree, Joan Jonas, and Steve Roden. Vitiello has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for “Fine Arts,” a Creative Capital grant for “Emerging Fields” and an Alpert/Ucross Award for Music. In 2012, Australian Television produced the documentary, Stephen Vitiello: Listening with Intent. Originally from New York, Vitiello is now based in Richmond, VA where he is a professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Electronic musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello transforms incidental atmospheric noises into mesmerizing soundscapes that alter our perception of the surrounding environment. He has composed music for independent films, experimental video projects and art installations, collaborating with such artists as Nam June Paik, Tony Oursler and Dara Birnbaum. In 1999 he was awarded a studio for six months on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One, where he recorded the cracking noises of the building swaying under the stress of the winds after Hurricane Floyd. As an installation artist, he is particularly interested in the physical aspect of sound and its potential to define the form and atmosphere of a spatial environment.

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain catalog for the exhibition, Ce qui arrive/Unknown Quantity, 2002

Biologist KASEY FOWLER-FINN is interested in the roles of genetics, plasticity, and environmental variation in evolution. Some of her primary interests include adaptation to global warming, the evolution of mating and social behavior, predator-prey interactions, and geographic variation in morphology and behavior. More about her lab's work can be found at


Graphic design by Kika Tuff | Lighting by Dana Ollestad


This exhibit is the combined effort of evolutionary biologist Dr. Kasey Fowler-Finn, sound artist Stephen Vitiello, and designer Kika Tuff at Impact Media Lab. The exhibit is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF IOS-1656818)

Photo Credit: Olivia LeClair

Photo Credit: Olivia LeClair