Urban beekeeper using bee sounds and honey to make experimental music (Video)

Bioni Samp
via Bioni Samp

Wrapping our heads around the scale and huge impact of colony collapse disorder on global bee populations is a difficult task. After all, cold, dry facts and statistics don't always get us to truly realize how terrible it would be in a world without bees.

That's where artists like UK-based Bioni Samp come in. Samp, who is a life-long bee enthusiast, is also an urban beekeeper who creates experimental electronic music using a blend of digital tools, as well as sounds recorded from his bee colonies. Watch him in action in this short BBC film, The Resistance of Honey:

Samp's abstract music sounds much like how you might imagine coming from the depths of a beehive: deep, droning and instinctual. But beyond the novelty of such sounds, Samp (not his real name) explains on Motherboard that he has a greater mission -- simultaneously raising awareness about colony collapse disorder, using a more roundabout (rather than direct action) method:

If I went around with a Greenpeace badge on and started shouting about deforestation, people quickly tire of that, it doesn't really connect with people. So I worked around the idea of presenting something that's got an underlying ecological message, but it's put over in a way which interest geeks and people interested in electronic music and computing.

BBCBBC/Video screen capture

In addition to using digital tools, Samp builds his own custom-made oscillator equipment to help create his music, such as the quirkily named Electronic Beesmoker, BeeVerb, BFX, and the Binaural Beeframe.

Using these tools, Samp records and analyzes the various frequencies that bees make, from the sounds of bee drones at work, to the soothing "songs" that bee queen will emit when they want to "heal" and calm things down in the hive. One of Samp's biggest discoveries was that honey could act as a resistor:

I [listen] to honey and I like to hear how it sounds. Honey has a 17 percent water content, which makes it a great conductor or resistor. So in my synthesizers here I've put in some electrodes into this honey [from my bee colonies], and this enables me to listen to the sound of the honey. Just as each colony of bees sounds different, each type of honey sounds different. So this honey has its own sound.

BBCBBC/Video screen capture

BBCBBC/Video screen capture

Bioni SampBioni Samp/via

Samp harvests these diverse sonic elements, including the "organic elements" from the sounds of different kinds of honey, which are then incorporated into his compositions. So far, Samp has performed all over Europe in various artsy, experimental and ecological festivals (usually in a beekeeping suit, no less), and he has a future album and a book on alternative beekeeping in the works.

Bioni SampBioni Samp/via

While the music itself might not please everyone's ears, that in itself is not the point. Samp's ongoing efforts to cultivate bees and a widespread appreciation for them is the epitome of great art: taking something so practical and satisfying, such as urban beekeeping, and intertwining it with something that is boldly artistic and yet also conveys an important environmental message too. To see and hear more, visit Bioni Samp's website, Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

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