The Animas River flows through the mountains of Southwestern Colorado, carrying heavy metals from abandoned 19th century mines. What if we could hear at once the geologic temporality of minerals, the generational impact of extractive industries, and the immediate need to preserve the alpine ecology and livelihoods downstream?
Animas comprises suspended panels of iron-oxidized steel, aluminum, copper, and lead—all metals that have exceeded safe levels in the river. Each panel vibrates at its own resonant frequency with an intensity that follows real-time data from water quality sensors deployed by the USGS and by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Water Quality Program. Changes in the clarity of the water, invisible indicators of the dissolved metals within it, and the dynamics of its daily and seasonal flows all become sound in the gallery, producing timbral “color” from the river’s continually changing composition.
For more information, see “Animas: Disaster, Data, and the Resonance of a River” in Journal of Sonic Studies, 2019 (publisher, pdf)