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ASU students have it made in the shade

Shade is key element in ASU student team's winning bus stop design.
Sundial served a inspiration for bus stop design, to provide shade at any time.
November 8, 2017

Phoenix to install 400 bus stops using industrial design quartet's design

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Four Arizona State University students are about to make the lives of millions of people easier and more comfortable.

There were more than 32 million bus rides taken in Phoenix last year, according to Valley Metro figures. Soon some of those passengers will be waiting at stops designed by the quartet to provide much more shade at all times of day.

“If we can make it easier and make their lives a little better, that’s a good feeling,” team member Ethan Fancher said.

Their new bus stop design won a contest open to industrial design students at ASU last academic year.

Seniors Fancher, Dan Duquette, Derek Smoker and sophomore Erlend Meling — all industrial design majors in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts — worked on the project.

They haven’t even graduated, and they’ve just completed a project any established firm would kill for, in the fifth-biggest city in the country, that will be highly visible to millions of people every day.

“It’s still really surreal,” Fancher said.

“I feel like it’s all downhill from here,” Smoker said.

Bus stop prototype
A prototype of the bus stop that will soon be installed around Phoenix sits on Dan Duquette's desk in ASU’s Design North building. The physical prototype, which is constructed mainly out of wood, was designed by Ethan Fancher, a senior industrial design major. One inch of the model equates to a foot of the finished product. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Their stop looks sleek, but as anyone who has waited for a bus in Phoenix during the summer will tell you, it’s shade that counts.

Shade was the top priority. The stops also had to be ADA-compliant. Being vandal-proof was another necessity.

The stop provides shade no matter what time of day or what angle the sun is striking it. “We took inspiration from a sundial,” Fancher said. “No matter where the sun is, there will always be shade.”

The team ran the design through a computer simulation of 12 hours of sun. It provides shelter at any time of day, when the sun is at any angle.

“They appreciated the thought we put into it,” Fancher said.

There’s an alcove to the side so wheelchair users can wait under cover.

Seating has yet to be decided, but it will be individual, not bench-style. “We found out in research most people won’t sit next to each other on a bench,” Fancher said. “It’s this weird human-nature thing.”

The stops will be made of steel. Colors haven’t been finalized, but the quartet likes a rust finish. Even if it gets vandalized with a Sharpie, it won’t stand out.

Damaged stops will be replaced first, then stops with the highest ridership. Bus stops with no shelter at all will be next on the list. It’s a modular design that can be added to, suiting crowded stops like those in front of high schools.

The city has a five-year plan to have 400 bus stops with their design.

“One of their main focuses is to replace the bus stops with no features with these,” Fancher said.

The team worked on the design for two months. Competition rules limited them to 20 hours of work per week per person. Groups of students competed and presented. The city whittled the choices down to five finalists. Fancher’s team found out they won last May.

After they won, the team met several times with a citizens transportation committee before the design went to the city council for approval.

“It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” Smoker said.

“We thought it was going to be very dry,” Fancher said.

There was a considerable amount of back and forth with the citizens committee. “We expected that,” Fancher. “We’re trained for that.”

City councilman Daniel Valenzuela told the team in a meeting that whether they leave or stay in Phoenix, they will always be able to point to their bus stops with pride.


Top photo: ASU industrial design students (from left) Derek Smoker, Erlend Meling, Ethan Fancher and Dan Duquette hold a prototype of the bus stop they designed. Their design will be used for new bus stops around Phoenix. This includes covering stops that do not currently have a structure as well as the new stops that will be created in Phoenix’s bus route expansion. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU students to participate in international Climate Change Theatre Action event

November 8, 2017

On Nov. 14, students from Arizona State University will participate in one of 211 events across 38 countries aimed at addressing climate change through theater.

Climate Change Theatre Action is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented biennially in support of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP meetings). In the U.S., 132 events will take place in 96 cities across 45 states. ASU is part of the action in promoting this awareness through the power of storytelling and demonstration of science. Acting students in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts will offer three staged readings. ASU Climate Change Theatre Action Download Full Image

Each play is matched with a scientist/researcher from ASU’s Biodesign Institute in order to illuminate the material and their related research. Masavi Perea, executive director of CHISPA and a local leader for climate change awareness, will be attending the event. The staged readings will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Biodesign Institute auditorium. For more information, visit  

The plays include:

“Homo Sapiens”
Did homo sapiens cause their own demise, or evolve into the next species? 
Written by Québécois Chantal BilodeauDirected by Rachelle Dart
Featuring Corey Reynolds and Jillian Walker, partnered with scientists Carlo Maley and Athena Aktipis

Penguins spy on scientists in a comical interpretation told from the penguins’ view. 
Written by graduate of the University of Queensland Elspeth Tilley
Directed by Professor Sandra Crews
Featuring Johnathan Gonzales, Victor Arevalo, Nick Freitas, Caroline Householder and Tara Scanlon, partnered with scientist Arvind Varsani

“Single Use”
Two characters stumble through an awkward first date, discovering their values clearly do not align.
Written by Jamaican born and Canadian raised Marcia Johnson
Directed by Professor Micha Espinosa
Featuring Fay Schneider and Dirk Fenstermacher, partnered with scientist Charles Rolsky

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Are humans 'out of time'?

The concept of "slow time" is a call to slow down in our fast-paced world.
How do you classify the period in which a tick is frozen, suspended in time?
November 7, 2017

ASU hosts conference that challenges us to rethink our relationship to time, space, Earth

Big questions about the nature of time and space and how they relate to mankind and the Earth have confounded some of the greatest minds since humans were capable of complex thought.

At this current point in time, when everything feels sped up — communication happens at lightning speed and the Earth itself is degrading at an exponential rate — perhaps it would do us well to slow down a bit and reconsider those questions from a modern-day perspective, said Ronald Broglio, ASU associate professor of English.

Ronald Broglio

Broglio is president of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA), which will host its 31st annual conference Nov. 9–12 at Arizona State University. The theme of this year’s conference is “Out of Time,” and it will bring together experts in such varied fields as engineering, technology, medicine, humanities and the arts to explore such topics as species extinction, life after humans, digital temporalities and more.

“The international strength of ASU lies in its cross-disciplinary thinking,” Broglio said. “From the titles of schools and centers to the actual research, ASU is known for innovations in thinking. Members of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts work in a similar fashion. They bring together philosophy and science, biology and cultural studies, digital technologies and the humanities, art and ecology, science fiction and predictive future-casting, etc.”

He and conference co-organizer Adam Nocek, ASU assistant professor of media and engineering, hope that bringing the society’s members to ASU will give them a chance to see firsthand the collaborative research taking place here.

Adam Nocek

In addition, Nocek said, “ASU's forward-looking transdisciplinary approach to research and pedagogy has inspired many new developments” at this year’s conference, including an art exhibition that brings together art, science and design around a focal theme, featuring work by ASU, local and international artists. There will also be a new series of workshops on practice-based research, and a roundtable on the state of game studies with top scholars in the field of digital gaming.

Nocek and Broglio will be presenting on the topics of philosophy and science and on animal studies, respectively.

Other ASU professors presenting at the conference include Ed Finn, assistant professor and director of the Center for Science and the Imagination, who will speak about a new edition of “Frankenstein” that he co-edited, geared toward science and technology students. Adriene Jenik, professor of art, and Marco Janssen, professor of sustainability, will present with their students on an art and science experiment of rationing water while living in a remote desert area. Associate Professor of English Matt Bell and the Piper Center for Creative Writing will give workshops on creative fiction and science.

Broglio recently spoke with ASU Now to help break down some of the seemingly nebulous concepts into more digestible explanations.

Question: The theme of this year’s SLSA conference is “Out of Time.” What does that refer to?

Answer: We can think of “out of time” in at least two ways: First, time that is outside of and beyond human perception (think slow geological time frames or quick atomic speeds); and second, human-created climate change is having an impact on the Earth and on culture such that life as we now know it is running out of time.

Q: Can you elaborate on some of the topics that will be discussed? For example, “the long now,” “nonhuman temporalities,” “slow time.” What does that all mean?

A: In regards to “the long now,” we live inside geological time. Here in the Valley of the Sun, it surrounds us, and we can see the stratifications and different rock formations. It is a “now” but on a long scale that we cannot fully comprehend. We use numbers and chemical compositions to try to describe this long time. It takes imagination to feel the depth and weight of such timescales. This is one of the advantages of having SLSA at ASU — people can viscerally experience the presence of geological time. At a human scale, a “long now” is the project of culture — passing on knowledge and ways of doing things from one generation to the next. Cultural know-how is fading, even as new forms of knowledge are being born.

“Nonhuman temporalities” means ways of perceiving time that are outside of our human perception. A small tick can be frozen for 10 years then unfrozen and be alive and moving — what sort of time is this? Or think of the song “Eskimo Blue Day” [by Jefferson Airplane] with the line “But the human name/ Doesn’t mean [expletive] to a tree” — a saguaro for example, can live over 200 years. Its life and world feel outside of human history and culture. And yet, too, with climate change and the sprawl of Phoenix, animal and plant life become entwined with our own.

“Slow time” is a great topic — in a world of “just-in-time capitalism,” with Amazon next-day delivery and the speed of texts and emails, there has been a call to slow down. It is a call to change our speed of doing and our attention span. We will be hosting workshops on slow time and slow thinking and doing.

Q: What topics will you and Nocek be presenting?

A: Professor Nocek will present primarily on philosophy and science. His work uncovers hidden fundamental assumptions within scientific research and tools. These assumptions change the way biological life (for example) is represented, and these representations give us insight but also have blind spots. He is finishing a manuscript on molecular animationMolecular animation seeks to bring the power of cinema to biology, recreating in vivid detail the complex inner machinery of living cells. and philosophy.

My own work is in animal studies, and asks us to take animals seriously in culture. Often culture appropriates the cute animals for its own ends but does not take the animal worlds seriously. I look at animal attacks, for example, and how they show a contrast between what we expect the animal to do (to behave within culture) and its needs and interests. I also write about artists who work with animals. Some of those artists will be at the conference.

The two keynote addresses at the SLAS Conference are free and open to the public; find more details here. The "Out of Time" art exhibit, which runs through Dec. 1, is free as well; find details here.


ASU professor’s scholarship leads to concert with 'The President’s Own' US Marine Band

November 7, 2017

Jill Sullivan, associate professor in the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, has conducted extensive research on women in military bands. Her research has culminated in two book publications and an elite invitation to perform with the premier United States Marine Corps music ensemble, “The President’s Own.”

This year is the 220th anniversary of “The President’s Own” and the 75th anniversary of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (MCWR) Band. In honor of the MCWR Band’s 75th anniversary, “The President’s Own” is planning a tribute concert in Alexandria, Virginia, to take place on March 11, 2018. Jill Sullivan Associate professor Jill Sullivan Download Full Image

As the only scholar of the MCWR Women’s Band, Sullivan is invited to collaborate with the U.S. Marine Band to create the concert, serve as narrator and curate an exhibit of memorabilia for the lobby.

Sullivan discovered through her research that women were allowed into the military during World War II and to form all-female military bands as their job during World War II.

“I was shocked,” Sullivan said. “Throughout all of my music studies, I had never heard of any all-women’s bands! I discovered that young women from all around the country who had been in high school and college bands were eager to serve their country in a military band, and they did.” 

Sullivan’s interest in women’s military bands resulted in a research grant funded by the Herberger Institute to continue her research in Washington, D.C.

This research resulted in her critically acclaimed book, “Bands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands during World War II,” published in 2011. The book includes a chapter on the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve Band, and because of this research, Sullivan is considered the steward of the history of the MCWR band.

Sullivan was contacted by the U.S. Marine Band’s female conductor, Major Michelle Rakers and invited to become the visionary for the tribute concert.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Sullivan has been invited to be a part of the 75th Anniversary Concert commemorating the musical contributions of women in World War II,” said Heather Landes, director of the ASU School of Music. “It is recognition of her significant and unique contribution to historical research on women’s bands in our country, which has truly been and continues to be a labor of love for her.”

The documentary concert will re-enact the Nov. 15, 1944 MCWR Band’s NBC national radio broadcast — a one-time event that replaced the U.S. Marine Band during the war.

Marine Corps Women's Reserve Band

Sullivan is writing the historical script, selecting the music and coordinating the media for the entire concert. She will also be on stage narrating the history along with the Marine Band’s professional announcer, who will recreate the male radio broadcaster’s words from 1944. In addition to the 90-minute program, she is selecting 1940s music for the pre-concert events and curating a lobby exhibition that includes ephemera, artifacts, poster-sized photographs, interview recordings, video and musical entertainment, and WWII uniforms from the Marine museum. The post-concert will feature a question and answer session with Sullivan and surviving WWII Marine Band members.

Sullivan visited many national libraries and archives when conducting research for her first book and discovered that all branches of the military had women’s bands during WWII. She located and interviewed 84 women who served in the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard women’s bands during the war. Of the 84 women interviewed, 43 women were U.S. Marine Band members.

She said her research on World War II women’s bands also revealed that there were many women’s bands in U.S. history and that the conductors of the women’s bands were music teachers before the war. Her most recent book, “Women’s Bands in America: Performing Music and Gender” is a compilation of her latest research that broadens the topic to all styles of music where women have formed bands, such as women’s jazz and rock bands.

Sullivan also discovered that women in WWII were some of the first music therapists in the U.S. She said that the profession of music therapy began, in large part, during WWII with women’s band members being trained to work with injured men in the hospitals.

“Today, these women musicians who formed these women’s bands serve as historical role models to our young women who perform in today’s elementary, high school, college bands and military bands, and to the women who teach and conduct bands today,” Sullivan said.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


‘The Compass’ puts you inside a courtroom drama

ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre production puts a teenager, technology on trial in inventive play where the audience is the jury

November 6, 2017

What if you could trade in your internal moral compass for a digital compass?

In “The Compass,” which opens this weekend at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, an app lets users forgo the struggle of making decisions altogether. Using information given to the app and users’ online history and social media data, the Compass app is more than just a prediction tool. It tells users what they actually would do in any situation. ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre's The Compass Download Full Image

“The relationship that we all have to our devices and to apps I just find pretty fascinating,” said Michael Rohd, who developed the piece over three years at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. “At first I thought we were working on a science fiction, or speculative fiction, piece, but I interviewed big honchos at Facebook, Google and other places, and all of them said we’re only a couple of years away.”

Rohd, an institute professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, not only explores the future of technology but also taps into the future of theatre as participatory art.

In this inventive play, the audience acts as a jury — determining the fate of Marjan, a teenage girl on trial for actions she took after consulting the Compass app to see what life-altering decisions she would make. Should she be held responsible? Did the app make her do it? Do her motivations matter?

“The jury will decide if our main character is guilty or not guilty,” Rohd said. “Things they say in their discussions will affect and appear in things that are done and said in the show. Part of the show is the jury wrestling with the case.”

Flashbacks to Marjan’s story, scenes from the app’s launch and witness testimony inform the audience during the trial. The audience will be divided in groups, each with their own juror. Throughout the play, jurors will lead conversations with their groups, as if the audience were stepping into the deliberation room.  

“When I am playing prosecutor I really have to pay attention to what the jury is thinking, how they’re reacting and also be very flexible in terms of changing tactics and maneuvering, trying to sway them from thinking not guilty to guilty,” said Leslie Campbell, an international undergraduate student double majoring in theater and global health. “It definitely raised the stakes in a way that I have never been able to play before.”

The ethics of technology served as one of the starting places for this groundbreaking play, but Rohd said it’s about more than that.

“It is about the relationship that young people have to adults, the relationship young people have to technology, the relationship we all have to how we make decisions for ourselves,” he said. The show explores how communities respond to trauma and violence, questions what it means when adults tell young people to stand up for themselves yet may not agree with how they do it, and puts the desire to use technology to make things more convenient next to potential downsides.

“The show presents the facts. It doesn’t offer a right or wrong ­— the audience, in a way, decides how it feels about that.”

 With the final verdict left up to the audience, many might even wish they could pull out a phone and open the Compass app for help.

'The Compass' 

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 16–18; 2 p.m. Nov. 12, 19.

Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, ASU's Tempe campus.

Admission: $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for seniors; $8 for students. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447.

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


ASU design students win Vectorworks Design Scholarship

October 30, 2017

Paula Wheeler and Trish Nhan capped off their last year as graduate students in The Design School by winning the 2017 Vectorworks Design Scholarship.

Vectorworks announced this summer that Wheeler, who graduated this year with a master’s degree in landscape architecture, and Nhan, who graduated with a master’s in visual communication design, were the United States winners for the landscape division for their project Discover Wonderland. ASU design students winning project Paula Wheeler and Trish Nhan won the 2017 Vectorworks Design Scholarship for their project Discover Wonderland. (Courtesy photo) Download Full Image

The prize included free Vectorworks design software for The Design School and a free virtual or in-person training for faculty and students.

To review their project, visit

Standing Rock journalist, filmmaker to speak at ASU indigenous series events

October 27, 2017

Myron Dewey (Newe-Numah/Paiute-Shoshone), an award-winning filmmaker, citizen journalist and educator, is the featured speaker in Arizona State University's Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community for fall 2017.

With Josh Fox and James Spione, Dewey co-directed the documentary film “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock,” which chronicles the #NoDAPL peaceful protests on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Myron Dewey / Courtesy photo Myron Dewey co-directed the documentary film “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock,” which chronicles the #NoDAPL peaceful protests on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Dewey's drone footage adds both immediacy and perspective to the film, making him “one of the most closely followed journalists to come out of the movement” (IndieWire). Photo courtesy Myron Dewey. Download Full Image

ASU will host two screenings of “Awake” — the first on Nov. 13 at Sun Devil Marketplace, 660 South College Avenue in Tempe and the second on Nov. 14 at the Heard Museum, 2301 North Central Avenue in Phoenix. Both events begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by the film at 6:45 p.m. Dewey will be present for a Q&A after the screenings, which are free of charge and open to the public.

Dewey is from the Walker River Paiute Tribe, Agui Diccutta Band (Trout Eaters) on his father’s side and Bishop Paiute Tribe on his mother’s side. He holds AA and BS degrees from Haskell Indian Nations University and an MA from the University of Kansas. He is founder and owner of Digital Smoke Signals, a social media and film company, for which he is an expert drone operator, youth media trainer and language preservation app builder.

Committed to what he calls “indigenizing media,” Dewey aims to bridge the digital divide between mainstream and native communities.

Henry Quintero, faculty advisor for Red Ink journal and an assistant professor of English in indigenous literature at ASU, believes Dewey is succeeding at this, primarily because Dewey’s work exists outside traditional confines of space and place. He “has transformed and Indigenized American journalism,” Quintero said.

Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, “Awake” has been called “powerful” by the Hollywood Reporter and “an evocative wake-up call told as a visual poem” by IndieWire. The film does not follow a single protagonist but instead forms a “pastiche” of narrative, mostly indigenous, voices. Dewey’s drone footage adds both immediacy and perspective to the film, making him “one of the most closely followed journalists to come out of the movement” (IndieWire). For Dewey’s efforts, “Awake” won the Special Founders Prize for Citizen Journalism at the 2017 Traverse City Film Festival — a festival founded by legendary documentarian Michael Moore.

“Standing Rock and its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline is one of the most significant events that has occurred in recent history in Indian Country,” said James Riding In, associate professor and interim director of American Indian Studies at ASU. “Myron Dewey’s film footage shot mostly from his drones represents an important development in journalism and the coverage of real-time events. His film is a testament to Indigenous resistance to abuses committed against people and the environment.”

The Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community at Arizona State University addresses topics and issues across disciplines in the arts, humanities, sciences and politics. Underscoring indigenous American experiences and perspectives, this series seeks to create and celebrate knowledge that evolves from an inclusive indigenous worldview and that is applicable to all walks of life.

ASU sponsors include the American Indian Studies Program, ASU Library, Department of English, Labriola National American Indian Data Center, Office of American Indian Initiatives, and Red Ink Initiative. The Heard Museum is a community partner.

For more information, visit the series website.

Kristen LaRue

communications specialist, Department of English


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Shattering the sonic balance

October 27, 2017

Introducing industrial development in national monuments? Expect a cacophony of sound that will stress animals and change the ecology, ASU expert says

“Every man needs a place to go where he can go crazy in peace,” said author and desert rat Edward Abbey.

There may soon be less of one of those places. President Donald Trump announced Friday he intends to shrink the size of the newest national monument, the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah.

The Interior Department’s plans, recommended by Secretary Ryan Zinke, include shrinking four national monuments and “modifying” six others. The result of such “modification” could mean hiking past a drilling rig or a coal mining operation in Utah, for instance. It also would likely lead to changes in the sonic landscape.

Garth PainePaine is an associate professor in interactive sound and digital media in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and an associate professor of composition in the School of Music at ASU., a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University, has studied the sounds of natural places for the past four years as part of a multi-disciplinary project to document and engage with the sounds of national parks and reserves in the American Southwest. ASU Now asked him how the proposed changes and cuts will affect those places.

Question: Much of your work focuses on peaceful, natural environments. How would putting in an oil rig or other manmade development affect the places on the proposed list of cuts?

Answer: Humans are everywhere! One of the great values of the national park and national monument programs is the way they make pristine environments available to everyone to reflect on the complex beauty of the natural environment. We don't realize that natural ecosystems have rhythms — night and day, fall, spring, summer. And these patterns have sonic signatures: different migrating bird calls, breeding calls of spring and quiet of the gentle snow-covered landscapes. Human industrial activity brings with it an insensitivity to these patterns —that is, a persistent, repetitive, 24-hour-a-day intervention, masking the nuance of the natural soundscape. This could include the small-scale calls of crickets and insects, the clicking of bats and the quiet warning signals of squirrels or wolves. 

The national monuments were created for exactly these reasons. Scarce and sometimes endangered species live there. In the interstitial space between Mexico and Arizona, for instance, are some of the richest ecosystems in the US. These ecosystems exist in part because the natural acoustic ecology is sufficiently interactive to allow ease of communication and provide habitats where the introduced sound does not stress the animal inhabitants. In these places, the human development has not erased critical food sources and provides safe nesting locations that remain intact from season to season. 

The introduction of industrial-scale resource extraction will dominate these lands — reducing the soundscape to a 24-hour-a-day industrial cacophony; stressing the indigenous animals and reducing intelligibility; and making hunting, breeding and ongoing habitation of these sites impossible. Do we really want that? The impact of industrialization is often more so in the sonic domain than the visual and yet we know these installations are an eyesore on the landscape. 

Q: You’ve pointed out at places like Joshua Tree, a jet flies over every 30 seconds. If monuments shrink, how will proximity to roads and such affect the experience?

A: The sound of interstate traffic dissipates across the land for many, many miles. The low bass frequencies oscillate across open land resonating in the undergrowth and affecting the burrow-dwelling animals. These low-frequency signals propagate much further and much deeper into the environment than we can imagine. 

I once noticed in a very remote preserve in New Mexico that there was a persistent sound in the environment. I was recording close to the ground, recording the sounds of kangaroo rats who had many burrows in the area. This was such a prized place that there was a long-term ecological research station there, transmitting weather data to a national network. This station had been constructed well into the preserve to get clean and clear readings. A power line had been run to maintain the station, and I discovered that this single above-ground power line was oscillating across its long spans between poles and generating a high-amplitude, very low-frequency sound; the hard ground acted as an amplifier and dispersed this loud sound over many hundreds of yards in all directions and directly into the habitat of the kangaroo rats. To the non-sound-sensitive human, the sound was almost imperceptible.  

Q: True silence is rare. In the wilderness silence can be so profound hikers call it “the hum.” Is it important to preserve that experience? Why or why not?

A: Whether the hum exists or does not, and whatever its cause might be, it’s critical that we have places of quiet — places to withdraw from the incessant sounds of the urban environment, to withdraw and refresh in a smaller-scale sound world, one that possesses immense nuance, subtlety and dynamism. Those who have experienced an anechoic chamber, where there is no sound from outside and no reverberation inside, report that in such a "silent" space, they hear their nervous system buzzing and the blood pumping around the body. The very activity of life makes sound. Everything makes sound, even the processes of our body, of life persisting.

Q: The silence of the Grand Canyon is often remarked upon for its significance in contributing to the full experience of the place. Yet air tours in designated corridors at the Canyon shatter that if you’re in the wrong spot. Is this a difficult issue to communicate to the general public?

A: All environments reflect an a priori sonic signature. This is an accumulation of the scale of the place, the mass of air, the temperature of the air, the plant and animal life and other geological features. The Grand Canyon has a special sonic signature because of its awe-inspiring size: the massive volume of air within the Canyon, the grand stone wall of the Canyon reflecting back the sound all around, the water movements through the rock, the dripping streams from above as well as birds from eagles to canyon wrens, the mule, coyote, elk, mountain lions, deer and raccoons, to name a few. 

The “silence” visitors experience is not so much a lack of sound as it is a quietude of natural sounds, usually small in scale, intimate, near and far. This dynamic sonification of the Canyon generates a perception of vast space, of enclosure and of life, dynamic in all its acoustic ecology, following the rhythms of the day, the seasons and the dynamics of the weather.  This “silence” is not empty, but rather the sonic signature of a special place.

Related: Got a Minute? Garth Paine on listening


Top photo: Cedar Mesa ruins at Bears Ears National Monument. Photo by U.S. Bureau of Land Management ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU Gammage helps connect local dance students with mentors

October 26, 2017

Gabriel Lopez fell in love with dance for the same reason most artists do — the intoxicating and liberating form of self-expression tells a story that words cannot.

The 18-year-old dancer had the rare opportunity to be mentored by the director of one of the most sought-after Cuban dance companies with a growing international profile, Malpaso Dance Company Malpaso Dance Company taught a Master Class and mentored a local student as part of its artist residency with ASU Gammage's Beyond Series. Download Full Image

“I don’t have that much support, family-wise and stuff like that, so it’s good to know that there are people out there who support me, especially a mentor who wants to guide me and show me exactly where I should be,” Lopez explained.

Malpaso Dance Company taught a Master Class as part of its artist residency with ASU Gammage’s Beyond Series, and in collaboration with the nonprofit, multi-media modern dance company, The Movement Source.

As this semester’s selected mentee in The Movement Source’s guiDANCE program, Lopez, participated in the Master Class and met with Fernando Saez, the director of Malpaso Dance Company. He also chatted with other members of the company.

“It was really exciting to get to see them and talk to them, get to know what kind of background they have, and the difference between my background and their background,” mused the Trevor G. Browne High School senior.

Mary Anne Fernandez Herding is the director of The Movement Source, and created the guiDANCE program two years ago to connect high school age students with professional dance mentors. She established her dance company in order to expand the audience for dance in Arizona by creating exciting, accessible dance works, education programs and events. 

“I’ve just seen so many kids who are hungry to dance and sometimes they need to hear a voice other than their teachers about what it’s like to be a dancer or a performer and be out in the world, and what is that life like, and how did they get there,” she said.

ASU Gammage Beyond artists allow guiDANCE mentees to ask questions, experience a Master Class and attend their performance. This inspires students and helps them build relationships in the dance community.

Fernandez Herding said partnering with ASU Gammage has given her program more validity and strength.

“Hopefully these things will lead to scholarship opportunities for the kids, especially if the artist is connected with the university,” she reflected. “Hopefully those relationships continue.”

Malpaso Dance Company will teach several other Master Classes and panels throughout the rest of October. Tickets are still available for the company’s Oct. 28 performance at

Marketing and Communications Assistant, ASU Gammage


ASU School of Music resident artist uses music to connect global communities

October 23, 2017

Ysaÿe M. Barnwell’s pedagogy is more far-reaching than just singing music. She teaches the humanity of music-making.

“Music is infinitely functional,” Barnwell said. “It ties the whole existence of a culture together. It is the intermediary between one culture and another — music is everything.” Ysaye Barnwell Ysaÿe Barnwell in a community sing. Download Full Image

Barnwell teaches how to create and connect communities using the power of the human voice — one communal voice.

As the inaugural guest artist of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ Projecting All Voices initiative, Ysaÿe Barnwell helped honor, validate and advance all voices. The Projecting All Voices initiative recognizes that every person, regardless of social background, deserves an equal chance to help tell our nation’s and our world’s stories.

“Everyone's social status was thrown away during the time we spent singing,” said Hunter Langenhorst, undergraduate music and culture major. “Age, sex, sexual orientation, race, gender were irrelevant.”

During her weeklong residency Sept. 5–8 with Arizona State University's School of Music, Barnwell presented three community sing sessions and three public lectures on her creative work and inclusive community building through music.            

Barnwell says that it is through the communal voice that people can begin to create and implement positive, harmonious strategies for change impacting the individual, the family, friends, the community, the country and the world. 

“It is important to understand that there are different world views based on the different cultures and that people see and react to the world through their world view,” she said. “Though we are using the same words, we all look at the world through different views — our own culture’s view.”

Ysaye Barnwell singing

Barnwell uses the African world view in her community building work because, she says, African music has function and purpose — it tells the story of African history, values and culture through oral tradition. Africans communicate and connect with all levels of their hierarchical world view through music that is related to life. Everything is documented through music.

When Africans were enslaved, they brought the African way of looking at life — including music — with them. As the traditional call and response music evolved, the African American spiritual was born.

Barnwell says if we listen to the music — look carefully at the lyrics and listen to the rhythms — we get to know the culture it’s from.

Carol FitzPatrick, associate professor of voice, attended Barnwell’s community sing session and lecture on world views.

“This was a life-changing experience,” FitzPatrick said. “It’s about being more open to other cultures and the exciting differences between them, and celebrating those differences rather than trying to erase them or denigrate them.” 

Barnwell is passionate about using music as a catalyst for bringing people together.

“A community is created by the music and lyrics of ordinary people,” she said.

Barnwell also says that everyone can sing. In her community sing sessions and lectures, she teaches how to sing music in the African American oral tradition. Participants who cannot read music only need to hear the music to sing it. Barnwell also pioneered the use of sign language to teach people who could not hear how to sing music.

Undergraduate music education major Connor Siroky said, “The experience taught me that there are people out there who aren’t ‘artists,’ but ordinary people who are capable of creating art.”

Barnwell’s community sings incorporate four different melodies sung simultaneously in a “round.” She demonstrates all parts so participants hear every part to sing. At the end of the session, participants discover that when several voices sing different songs simultaneously, another voice emerges — “one voice.”

Sabine Feisst, professor of musicology, said, “Dr. Barnwell quickly tore down barriers between academics and non-academics, literate and non-literate musicians through a few exercises in community singing.”


“Students, faculty and staff in the School of Music said they were inspired by Barnwell’s vision of peacebuilding through music,” said Deanna Swoboda, associate professor of tuba and euphonium. “She truly elevated everyone around her, as a scholar, a musician, a person who brings people together through song. I realized the positively powerful effect that singing can bring to everyday life.”

Barnwell is a commissioned composer, arranger, singer, choral clinician, researcher, educator, actress and author. Her residency was made possible in part by a Mellon Foundation grant, the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the School of Music.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music