Peter V. Swendsen


Feeding the System(2001)

for six bird feeders and their environment


Feeding the System premiered at the Plan B Gallery as part of the Santa Fe International Festival of Electronic Music in April, 2001. The piece consists of a network of six bird feeders, hung in an outdoor courtyard. Within each bird feeder, there is a small microphone, an FM radio transmitter, an FM radio receiver, an amplifier, and a small speaker. The microphone in each bird feeder transmits its signal via FM (89.9) to the speakers of the other bird feeders in the system. Once the bird feeders are connected in this manner, a feedback network is created. This network is kept just at the threshold for audio feedback by attenuating each signal's amplitude on the homemade electronics. As changes occur within the system—birds land on the feeders, birds eat some of the food, the wind blows, FM reception shifts due to movement of the listeners, etc.—the feedback network “comes alive” and is aurally more active for a period of time until it settles back into its on-edge state. While some sound is audible in general proximity to the piece, the listener must be within a few feet of a given bird feeder to best hear specific content.

Feeding the System serves to remind the listener of the delicate balance between nature and human development, while also demonstrating, through sound, the “ripple effects” found in natural and social systems. The piece depends on its environment to supply material, while also encouraging interactions between that environment and its inhabitants.


© 2016 pvs