It has been reported that a New York musician by the name of Ben Mirin, as equally enamoured with animals as we are at Concord Veterinary Hospital, has turned his mind’s ear to the natural world for inspiration, for a sign to direct him on his sonic route. And where has he turned to? To the primatology department of Stony Brook University, New York, where a contact there, Patricia Wright, is helping him rummage through a sound library consisting of samples of Lemur calls from all 103 extant species. And what does Ben intend to do with the manifold records of Lemur noises? Make sick beats of course, dope enough to get Kanye interested in his ever-increasing, whacky avant-guard projects.
Mirin is a beatboxer, someone specialising in employing the mechanisms of the vocal cords and mouth to mimic the percussive “drops” of hip hop beats. The beats are now composed exclusively of the bizarre, variegated sounds emitted by the Lemur as part of Mirin’s project “The Birds and the Beats”, his Youtube Channel.
The idea came when Mirin met Wright at a Wildlife Conservation Festival. Having told Wright that his project had up until then consisted of sampling bird calls, Wright threw down the gauntlet and suggested he use Lemur sounds. Wright then introduced Mirin to an expansive digital library of data that she’d collected in her 30 years as a researcher.
Mirin, aside from the intrinsic joy that music offers, is motivated by two awareness-raising objectives. The first is to give urban dwellers, alienated from nature as they toil in their bee-hives, a greater link to the natural world. But it also happens that the majority of the Earth’s Lemur species are either critically endangered or endangered, suffering the ramifications of unbridled illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming and hunting.
The beats are made up of the collected barking, whistling, clicking and howling that Lemurs are known for. Curiously, Mirin claims that he has identified chords that are made when the Lemur calls are made in unison, something Wright herself is interested in exploring further. The most comical sound comes from the Golden Bamboo Lemur, whose sound has been charmingly compared to vomiting and dry-retching.
It’s quite amazing to think how Lemur sounds, employed to warn off predators amongst other things, have made their way into the jams of a New York musician. Yet one can’t help but think that there will be a bitter-sweet element to Mirin’s hope to establish a greater affinity between city listeners and the natural world if his beats are destined to be some of the last-known recordings of this wonderful, and endangered, animal.