Lisa Schonberg and Secret Drum Band at International House: Event Recap

During the evening of March 29, students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in Assembly Hall of International House at the University of Chicago, to hear Lisa Schonberg discuss her lecture on "Documenting Ecosystems: Soundscapes and Percussion Composition".

The event began with a reception, where student artists, entrepreneurs, and activists volunteered to display their ideas and work. Projects ranged from a dairy-free dessert company, to eco-fashion, to beautiful photographs of microscopic shrimp, to socially conscious paintings, as made by the winner of the evening, first-year Amy Tian.

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After a delicious, catered meal with compostable silverware, plates, and napkins, Lisa Schonberg spoke about her entomological interests, and how this love of insects informs her percussion composition. As a tandem project of composition and conservation, Schonberg collects field recordings of endangered bees and ants, to both gain inspiration for her music, and to raise awareness about the communication and behavior of these frequently disregarded animals.

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Schonberg and her band, Secret Drum Band, have developed a number of albums in this manner, transforming the natural soundscapes of various habitats into compelling percussion pieces. Elemental to their music is their environmental activism, which primarily focuses on issues impacting their home in Portland, Oregon.

After Schonberg's lecture, Secret Drum Band played a wonderful set, featuring background videos made by local cinematographers in Portland. Each song evoked the habitats in which it was inspired, ranging from the Mojave Desert in California to the Kona Coast of Hawai'i.


The Program on the Global Environment is very grateful to have had the pleasure of hosting Lisa Schonberg and the Secret Drum Band, and is looking forward to more events that meld the disciplines of art and science in the future.