Environmentally-responsive sonic installation, a collaboration between Scott Cazan (USA) and Carmina Escobar (MEXICO).


Alebrijes is an installation existing within a natural environment consisting of five small sensing Arduino-based modules called alebrijes (after Pedro Linares’ brightly colored creatures celebrated in Mexico). The project investigates the evolution of data within natural ecologies and the integration of technology into natural environments by designing and building these small modules that take as their input light, sound, and temperature. Each array of sensors is attached to a small microcomputer (Arduino) running custom software that approximates a genetic evolution through time. Five alebrijes were placed into various outdoor environments. Each alebrije listens to its environment, feels its temperature and tracks light, then uses this information as the building blocks of its own “DNA strand.”

Initially, the alebrijes DNA strand consists of a short composed melody and the DNA is represented through sound as a series of pitches emanating from the module and as colors glowing from inside the module. As time progresses, the melodies and light patterns of the alberijes change as a custom genetic algorithm treats the incoming sensor data like potential DNA for mating. As the microcomputer receives more information it uses it to influence the generation of new DNA strands (melodies and light patterns) creating sound and light that is directly influenced by the surrounding environment including other nearby alebrijes.

The installation can be experienced by the public if they happen upon it along a trail or hear it from a distance. Beyond the installation a series of field recordings document the sounds of the local environments injected with the harmonies of the alebrijes as they react to their environment. The evolution of each alebrije is carefully documented and recorded as a visual DNA strand to be compared with installations enacted in other ecologies.

A video of the piece can be found here: