Symphony of the Sea

FIU Music presents “The Deep Seascape: The Sonic Sea,” an acoustic performance that recreates the audio world 200 feet under the sea, off the coast of South Florida. The installation and performance, composed by music technology graduate student Erik DeLuca, is scheduled for Sat., March 21 in the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center Concert Hall at 8 p.m.


By Sissi Aguila

Floridians have an enviable relationship with the ocean. Never more than 80 miles away from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, they can delight in all things aquatic regardless of the season. Right off the coast, scuba divers and snorkelers swim among colorful tropical fish and explore miles of coral reefs. Yet for most Floridians the ocean they spend so many hours in is still a mystery – nothing more mysterious than its sounds and that of its inhabitants.    

Now music technology graduate student Erik DeLuca brings this underwater world to the surface in “The Deep Seascape: the Sonic Sea,” an eight-channel, surround sound, audiovisual performance that immerses audience members in the audio universe 200 feet under the sea.

DeLuca, an interdisciplinary artist and composer, collected underwater sounds over the last couple of months using hydrophones – underwater microphones that can capture crisp, sonic materials deeper than 7,000 feet. With the sounds he recorded, DeLuca created a representation of Miami’s seascape.

“I was reading a lot about and listening to natural and city soundscapes,” says the Tampa native of his inspiration for the performance installation. “And I found that there was no real repertoire of underwater soundscapes. I saw an opportunity to make the normally inaudible, audible.”

With the help of physics professor James Webb, DeLuca received a $7000 grant from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs to support the deep sound project.

“I have been combining science and music for quite a while with my quasar music and astronomy concerts,” Webb explains. “So it is great to see another more “down to Earth” genre of science generate some cool music.” 

With the funds DeLuca secured, he ventured seven miles off the coast in a boat and dropped hydrophones into the water using 35-feet cable. He then went into the studio and worked with the data collected. Some of the recorded frequencies are beyond or below the human hearing range; but by using time compressions and expansions, they are converted so that people can hear them.

Shrimp snapping, the sounds of manatees and dolphins, the roar of cruise liners, along with more subtle sounds will be featured in the first part of the performance – a 15-minute sound performance during which the audience will wear blind folds to block their vision but enhance their hearing.

The second part of the evening will feature a performance that is influenced by the allusive underwater sound environment with text by Clark Lunberry, an English professor at University of North Florida, and animations and visuals by Venessa Monokian, a conceptual photographer, and Izlia Fernandez, a visual artist.

“Collaboration is key,” says DeLuca. “I like to bring different disciplines together to create an in-depth experience that a variety of people can enjoy and appreciate. With this project, I wanted to take science, music, visual arts and the natural environment and combine them to create art.”

“The Deep Seascape: the Sonic Sea” performance is scheduled for Sat., March 21 in the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center Concert Hall at 8 p.m.  Admission is free courtesy of the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs department and FIU Music.