Dawn Chorus
by Marcus Coates

Chiropractor in consultation room singing


  • 1Dawn Chorus - excerpts

  • 2Dawn Chorus installed at BALTIC, Gateshead, UK, 2009


  • 1Video still from Dawn Chorus
  • 2Video still from Dawn Chorus
  • 3Video still from Dawn Chorus
  • 4Production image: Marcus Coates recording original sound
  • 5Production image: Marcus Coates with participant for filming
  • 6Dawn Chorus installed at BALTIC, Gateshed, UK. 2007
  • 7Dawn Chorus installed at BALTIC, Gateshed, UK. 2007

Video still from Dawn Chorus


Dawn Chorus, by Marcus Coates, uses unique digital methods to explore the relationship between birdsong and the human voice, drawing out previously unexplored similarities between the behaviour of birds and humans.

Dawn Chorus comprises films of 19 singers that uncannily recreate birdsong in their ‘natural habitats'. The individuals are located in various situations such as an underground car-park, an osteopathic clinic and a bath-tub, the project is as much a portrait of British idiosyncrasies as it is of the natural world.

During rigorous fieldwork 14 microphones were placed around woodland to record birds during one morning of birdsong in Northumberland. From this multi-track recording each song was slowed down up to 16 times, then human participants were filmed mimicking this slowed down song. Finally the resulting video footage was then speeded up, returning the bird mimicry into its ‘real' register. The films are presented on screens in the gallery relative to the position of the birds when they were recorded.

Humans share many aspects of biology and behaviour with birds - birds form social groups, build nests/houses and in some cases mate for life. Birds have very complex vocal/communication patterns which have comparisons to our own; even having varying geographical dialects within the same species.



Year 2007
Duration 18 minutes
Medium Multi-screen video installation
Original format HDV
Screening format MPEG-2 DVD
Aspect ratio 16:9
Audio Yes
Colour / B&W Colour
Screens 14 (single screen, 6 screen, 7 screen versions)

External links:


Dawn Chorus was produced by Picture This and co-commissioned by Picture This and BALTIC with support from the Wellcome Trust.

Screening history:

21 March - 12 May 2011
Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales

08 October - 06 December 2010
Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain

15 January - 04 April 2010
Milton Keynes Gallery

29 May - 20 September 2009
‘Living Together’
MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain

23 January - 03 May 2009
‘Living Together’
Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

19 July - 02 November 2008
Manifesta 7, Trentino, Italy

13 December 2007 - 15 March 2008
Centre for Digital Art, Holon, Israel

29 June - 04 August 2007
Picture This Atelier

14 February - 18 March 2007
BALTIC, Gateshead, UK

Related Items:

Marcus Coates

Coates has long been exploring metamorphosis through voice and sound. He produces fascinating films in which the human voice mimics complex birdsong.

Being Bird

Curator and writer Tracy Warr explores Marcus Coates' facination with the interspecies boundary between the human and bird.

Marcus Coates and Other Animals

Originally published in InProfile: Marcus Coates, Max Andrews looks at Marcus Coates' attempts to become animal.