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Canaveral Soundscape

December 7, 2020 - December 11, 2020

Free, and open to everyone!

On Exhibit: December 7 – 11, 10 AM – 4 PM
Opening Reception: December 5, 4 PM – 7 PM | Artist Talk at 6 PM
ACA at Harris House, 214 S. Riverside Drive, New Smyrna Beach, FL

ACA Soundscape Field Station at Canaveral National Seashore presents an exhibition by 2020 artist in residence, Dr. Nathan Wolek. “My interests are now focused on locations where people intentionally go to be in closer contact with nature like our state and national parks. These places have such interesting overlaps between human, wildlife, and Earth generated sounds. I tend to exhaustively explore certain locations by recording them over and over, then edit that material into a sound collage that represents that location,” says Dr. Wolek.

The exhibition at ACA Harris House features Dr. Wolek’s sound mapping visual experience alongside his field recording audio from Canaveral National Seashore.


Click here for excerpts from exhibition

This event is in partnership with ShORE 2020.
ACA Soundscape Field Station is sponsored by Friends of Canaveral and the City of New Smyrna Beach.

Click here to view Facebook event page

Canaveral Soundscape

Canaveral National Seashore has a diverse soundscape. You have the wind and waves, which modulate between fierce and serene depending on the weather patterns. You have wildlife like birds, insects, and fish, which are the source of pitched calls both above the water and below. You have a much lower density of people than at a typical Florida beach, but the machines we use for transportation create long gestures across the water and sky. All of these things make Canaveral a good place to let your ears experience something different from contemporary life.

As a native of Central Florida, I’ve made countless trips to the beaches in Volusia and Brevard counties throughout my life. But my 2020 residency for the ACA Soundscape Field Station transformed the purpose of those “beach days”. From May to November, I made 17 trips to the Canaveral National Seashore and recorded over 100 hours of audio. That material provided a deep reservoir for putting together the pieces of sound art presented in this exhibition.

Each piece provides a different path to spend time engaging with the Canaveral Soundscape. When visitors first enter, they are greeted by recordings of underwater soundscapes that occasionally crossfade to reveal the parallel world just above the surface. On the large computer display, visitors can visually navigate and playback sounds captured on the Castle Windy trail during Florida’s coronavirus lockdown. Finally, the mural spanning three walls presents visitors with headphones, which transport them to platforms on the top of Turtle Mound and present a collage of contrasting sounds.

The works all take time to unfold, much like a natural soundscape. These long durations allow you to hear something new each time you give one of them a few minutes of your attention. Hopefully this exhibit will help you hear new things on your next visit to the Canaveral National Seashore and enhance your appreciation for its diverse soundscape.

the days below water (Mosquito Lagoon)

Most people have never heard the soundscape beneath the surface of Mosquito Lagoon. On many days, you can hear irregular pops of snapping shrimp using sound to stun their prey. Some days, you can hear creaking from dolphins using sound to locate their next meal. For a few weeks in fall, you will hear a slow tonal pulse from toadfish in search of a mate. It’s a dramatically different soundscape than the one above the water. The soundscape above the water can be active and eventful, while underwater it is calm or vice versa. Occasionally, loud events like thunder will penetrate the surface, but usually they are almost indifferent to each other.

The selections playing over the speakers in this gallery were recorded at various locations in the Mosquito Lagoon at Canaveral National Seashore. Although these recordings emphasize the underwater soundscape, occasionally they come up for air and reveal what is happening just above the surface. That often serves as a contrast, but sometimes it can reveal the source of something heard under water (such as a passing boat, an approaching storm, or a busy fisherman).

The following playlist has a total running time of 1 hour, 33 minutes:

  • quiet manatee & helicopter (Eddy Creek, 24 July) – 6 minutes, 23 seconds
  • passing boat & gato fisherman (Eldora, 1 October) – 8 minutes, 22 seconds
  • calm water under windy conditions (Eldora, 18 September) – 7 minutes, 58 seconds
  • passing boat & knocking fish (Visitor Center, 14 October) – 8 minutes, 2 seconds
  • cicadas & thunderstorm (Eldora, 11 August) – 9 minutes, 56 seconds
  • dolphin through diverse soundscape (Visitor Center, 25 September) – 10 minutes, 31 seconds
  • floating dock & sea birds (Seminole Rest, 27 October) – 6 minutes, 50 seconds
  • passing boat & cicadas (Visitor Center, 11 September) – 7 minutes, 9 seconds
  • dolphin & passing boat (Visitor Center, 29 July) – 6 minutes, 48 seconds
  • shy manatee (Eddy Creek, 24 September) – 7 minutes, 49 seconds
  • knocking fish (Eldora, 5 October) – 6 minutes, 46 seconds
  • floating dock & passing dolphin (Seminole Rest, 2 September) – 6 minutes, 4 seconds


the minutes without people (Castle Windy)

In May 2020, there were a few weeks when the Canaveral National Seashore was not open to the public. This presented an unprecedented opportunity to capture the park’s soundscape without any visitors. With permission from the park rangers, I was able to place a small audio recorder at the end of the Castle Windy trail near the lagoon shore. It was programmed to sample one out of every ten minutes and resulted in an overwhelming collection of 2,300 sound files.

In order to make browsing this large catalog of recordings more intuitive for myself and others, I organized them into a table with columns for individual dates and rows for time of day. Each cell in the table displays a spectrogram, which provides a way to visually preview the information in each recording. Darker colors convey quieter recordings, while brighter colors convey moments of more intensity. Organizing the data in this way makes it much easier to find time periods with more activity and interesting sounds.

Visitors are invited to navigate through this collection using the computer mouse. Clicking on any table cell allows visitors to play the recording while viewing an enlarged version of the spectrogram. You will find that the animals were definitely vocal during these few weeks, but even without visitors, machines like boats and planes still make the occasional appearance.

If you are not sure where to start, here are some suggested dates and times to try:

  • May 21 @ 5:40 UTC – crickets, owl, frog
  • May 22 @ 13:30 UTC – osprey
  • May 24 @ 13:20 UTC – bird
  • May 29 @ 18:50 UTC – plane fly over
  • June 4 @ 1:30 UTC – rocket launch
  • June 4 @ 13:30 UTC – pitch sweep birds


the hours facing… (Turtle Mound)

From the bottom of Turtle Mound, the height of this Timucuan shell midden stands out from the surrounding landscape in Canaveral National Seashore. After a short trek to the top, the elevation built up over hundreds of years provides spectacular perspectives on that same landscape. It’s possible to see and hear over great distances.

I wanted to document changes in the soundscape on Turtle Mound. During early November 2020, I made multiple trips to the top where I captured recordings from each of the three observation platforms. I worked out a schedule that would allow me to record the distinct hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. over the course of a week.

Little did I know how eventful that week would be. It started with Hurricane Eta’s outer bands creating dramatic changes in weather. It ended with high-profile rocket launches bringing many new visitors to the park. And layered on top of these outside forces were the sounds of animals who call the park home and waves on the ocean shore from sunrise to sunset.

The mural in this installation presents three pairs of headphones that emerge from a map of the platforms. Each of the headphones in this gallery presents the soundscape from a specific platform on top of Turtle Mound. The source recordings in each pair of headphones were all made from the exact same position. The cuts between these source recordings highlight variations in the soundscape caused by weather conditions, animal activity, visitor activity, watercraft, aircraft, and spacecraft.

This installation contains three compositions:

  • the hours facing south – 42 minutes, 11 seconds
  • the hours facing west – 30 minutes, 21 seconds
  • the hours facing north – 41 minutes, 48 seconds



Nathan Wolek (b. 1977) is a sound artist and audio researcher whose work encompasses electronic music, audio field recording, multimedia performance, and sound design. Wolek is currently the Lydia Pfund Endowed Professor of Digital Arts at Stetson University in DeLand, FL. His music and sound installations feature rapid edits, gradually changing textures, and environmental recordings of personal significance. Wolek has presented his creative work across the United States, in addition to engagements in Korea, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Brazil. He was honored to be the 2020 artist-in-residence for the ACA Soundscape Field Station at the Canaveral National Seashore. Wolek has also been named a Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom, and will spend the early part of 2021 as a Visiting Professor at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland).


December 7, 2020
December 11, 2020
Free, and open to everyone!
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ACA at Harris House
214 S Riverside Dr.
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168 United States
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