Nature's Nickelodeons, 9th June, Sheffield

Amy Cutler's picture

I apologize for not posting this prior to the event last week, but I still wanted to share it with the H-Animal community as it looks totally amazing. Hopefully some H-Animalistas in the UK were able to attend. -- The Editor

Dear H-Animalers,
If you're near or can get to Sheffield it would be brilliant if you could be part of this world premiere event, deconstructing the narrative of animals on film in nature documentary (the national Live Cinema launch event of Sheffield Doc/Fest). It should be a pretty exciting crowd, as we're hoping to use the moment to fire off into other projects /collaborations hopefully bringing animals and geography/film researchers together with musicians/ filmmakers outside the usual or traditional distribution/consumption networks for nature documentary, thinking through ideas of empathy, moral fable, and the fauna of nature docs.

The chance to take part in the Feral Choir is hopefully a particular thing to flag for doctoral students and others - it's a totally different technique for thinking and an amazing way to think through the nonhuman through using vocal practice. And it's free - see sign up details below, and please pass the word if you can...

very best
Nature's Nickelodeons (World Premiere), Sheffield DocFest / Live Cinema UK Special Event
Saturday 9th June, workshop 12.15-2.15 and public performance 4pm-5.30pm
The Leadmill, Sheffield, S1 4SE
4PM - 5.30 NATURE'S NICKELODEONS (film festival premiere/concert): Experience the nature documentary, but as you’ve never seen or heard it before.

Inspired by an abandoned idea of Walt Disney's to build natural history cinemas in zoos, experimental composers, musicians and even an AI join filmmaker and Doctor of GeoHumanities Amy Cutler to re-invent the heroes, villains, sounds and spaces of nature broadcasts. We’ll travel through submerged volcanoes, bio-luminescence, flocking birds and swarming insects, accompanied by new performances, from live drone laments to the conducting of “feral singing” by the audience.

Phil Minton’s feral choir will lead the audience in vocal improvisation around swarm footage of locusts, mice, and dying flies; musician and beatboxer Jason Singh will create a new commissioned sound-work for nature’s oddballs, misfits, and mudskippers; Anna Ridler and Amy Cutler will generate a new anthropomorphic nature documentary voiceover by neural network.

MUSIC: saxophonist and composer Nick Roth and improvising musician / computer scientist Panos Ghikas will perform a composition based on the flocking behaviour of birds and bird flocking simulators in response to nature documentaries which use inflight cameras to track migrating geese. Áine O'Dwyer will use voice and harp to create ceremonial music for the web spinning, death and mating of silk spinner spiders; and Bridget Hayden’s synth compositions and reconfigured blues will explore the subterranean spaces of deep sea nature documentary, from slo-mo shoals to drowned volcanoes.
12.15PM - 2.15 FERAL CHOIR WORKSHOP Any attendee of this event is welcome to participate in the amateur Feral Choir and attend a free workshop of training beforehand in improvised "feral" vocal techniques inspired by insect swarms! Sign up here: or by emailing The Feral Choir is a legendary vocal experience for those who sing, for those who do not sing and for those who will never sing. Led by the unique and extraordinary singer and improvisation musician Phil Minton, the feral choir is a series of vocal workshops in which choirs are formed on the day, concluding with a public performance of an orchestra of improvised noise.

The free two-hour workshop from 12.15 - 2.15 at the Leadmill in feral voice techniques will culminate in a mini-concert at the world premiere of Nature's Nickelodeons, 4-5.30pm on the same day - one of the Special Events at Sheffield Documentary Festival (the biggest documentary festival in the world). This public performance will involve around 12 minutes of group improvisation to footage of swarms, locusts, and feral mice overrunning human habitations.

No previous experience of vocal improv is necessary, and this is open to anyone who takes a delight in the freedom to experiment - particularly around ideas of breaking out of habitual modes of human voice to explore all kinds of breathing and vocal techniques to re-imagine nonhuman lives and swarming insects.