A new public art installation brings the natural sounds of the Everglades to downtown Clearwater.
“The World Within'' broadcasts the sounds captured in the wild of Everglades National Park from just before sunrise to just after sunset. The sound installation will play along Gaslight Alley, the tree and plant-lined walkway at 515 Cleveland St., through June 15.
Todd MacIntire, the artist behind the project, says it is intended to ground and calm people as they make their way through the bustle of downtown.
“It’s a walking meditation,” MacIntire says. “It’s as much about listening to the sounds of nature as it is about being present. I feel like listening to the sounds of the natural world pulls you into that. It makes you be here and now.”
The Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency brought “The World Within” to downtown as a companion piece to legendary landscape photographer Clyde Butcher’s “America’s Everglades” exhibit at the downtown library.
“It’s about bringing awareness too,” MacIntire says of the sound installation. “Everybody lives within a watershed and we have natural fresh water we need to protect. The Everglades, one-hundred years ago, they were trying to drain them. Now, they are just figuring out how to bring back the fresh water flow we destroyed years ago. There’s so much that people need to be aware of, especially as our population goes up, on how to live on this planet sustainably.”
MacIntire and his team spent a week moving around various spots in Everglades National Park to capture the sounds for the installation.
“Every day, we would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and go set recording devices out,” he says. “We would follow sounds and move to different locations. If sounds let up, we would go to another location. The audio files playing in Gaslight Alley are a composite of basically a full day of sounds from different locations in the Everglades from around sunrise to sunset. The sounds playing correlate to when visitors are coming. If you come at noon, it will be playing sounds from the Everglades at noontime. I wanted it to be in sync, to be what it sounded like at the time of day you are visiting.”
MacIntire says while he was in the Everglades working on the project, one particular time of day struck a chord with him.
“I loved listening to the waking up of nature,” he says. “You go out at 430 in the morning to set everything up and it will be quiet. You might hear one thing off in the distance. Then, all of a sudden as you see the light start to come up, things just wake up. You’ll hear one bird wake up, then a whole flock will move in. All of a sudden, the whole place is going off. And it is like that every single morning. Every day, the sun wakes up and the animals wake up as well. And they usually wake up with songs.”
For MacIntire, “The World Within” is part of an effort to make a positive difference through art and spread an environmental message. That shift in focus included earning a master’s degree in ecopsychology and moving from photography to sound recording.
“My new mission is to get back out in the world,” he says. “I was sitting behind a desk and working with photographs, editing and printing, collaborating with photographers, and now I’m working on ecological projects, trying to bring awareness and to do so for myself as well.”
MacIntire says he was in the Amazon rainforest when the idea struck him to make sound recordings of nature.
“I was in the Amazon working with some indigenous communities down there,” he says. “We had just done a ceremony. As I was coming out of the ceremony, I was really captured by the sounds. It just pulled me into the natural world and it made me feel like I was part of the whole of the Earth. It was such a profound moment for me. From there I wanted to bring the natural experience to people who live in the city.”
For more information on the sound installation please visit “The World Within.”