Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121
Helen Taylor (415) 379-5128


An original musical composition that includes spoken voice recordings from around the world,
"Ocean Voices" also commemorates the 100th Anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's birth

SAN FRANCISO (May 10, 2010) – In honor of the second annual World Oceans Day and the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s birth, the California Academy of Sciences is proud to present the debut performance of "Ocean Voices," an original composition by sound artist Halsey Burgund that combines instrumental music with spoken voice recordings about the world’s oceans. The piece will be debuted during the Academy’s weekly NightLife event on Thursday, June 3, with performances at 7:30 and 8:30 pm.

The "Ocean Voices" project was launched by Burgund and Academy scientist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who hope to spread awareness about the importance of the world’s oceans by helping people connect to the topic of ocean conservation on a more emotional level. Together, they created and promoted the Ocean Voices web site (, which they have used to collect voice recordings from around the world. On the site, they asked people to respond to one of several questions about the ocean, including "What would a world without oceans be like?" and "What does it feel like to be in the ocean?". Voices were also collected via in-person interviews, cell phone tours at the California Academy of Sciences, and a free iPhone application ( Hundreds of respondents lent their voices to the project, including fishermen, school children, scientists, U.S. Congressman Sam Farr, and several members of the Cousteau family.

To create his original musical work, Burgund programmed an electronic marimba to play a selection of these voice recordings. Instead of its original note, each key on his customized instrument now plays a different voice. During the debut performance of "Ocean Voices," Burgund will "play" spoken voices on his electronic marimba, while his band backs him up on cello, violin, guitar, and keyboard. The structure and rhythms of the 28-minute piece were inspired in part by the patterns of ocean tides.

"There is something about the spoken human voice that transcends the words used and the literal meanings conveyed," says Burgund. "Each of us has a unique way of speaking, unique feelings to relate and unique experiences to recount. With Ocean Voices, I am capturing a wide variety of these individual expressions, and I hope that by combining them with original music, the resulting piece will communicate something more powerful than any of the individual voices could on their own."

The performance will take place inside the Academy’s Morrison Planetarium, and Burgund will take advantage of the dome’s surround-sound system by "moving" voices around the dome from speaker to speaker. He will also project coastal and underwater video footage onto the dome screen, creating a multi-sensory experience.

In addition to celebrating the second annual UN-designated World Oceans Day, which falls on June 8, the "Ocean Voices" debut will also pay tribute to Jacques Cousteau, whose underwater documentaries inspired hundreds of future scientists, including Academy Research Associate Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. "I'm just like a lot of people - I grew up with a Cousteau sticker on my bike and his films on my mind," says Nichols. "Through the Ocean Voices project, we wanted to honor the enormity of Jacques Cousteau's legacy in a way that was inclusive and open to everyone. We hope that by calling on both art and science to inspire humanity to respond to the ocean crisis, 2010 can be a pivotal year for ocean protection in many important ways."

Jacques Cousteau was born on June 11, 1910, making this year the 100th anniversary of his birth. Two of his grandchildren, Celine Cousteau and Fabien Cousteau, will attend the "Ocean Voices" debut at the Academy on June 3 and will give a brief talk before each performance about the importance of ocean conservation.

The "Ocean Voices" project is just one of the ways the California Academy of Sciences is working to increase public awareness and scientific understanding of ocean conservation issues. Although they cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and are critically important to the health of our global ecosystem, the oceans are some of the least explored and most threatened places on our planet. Academy scientists are currently working to document and map the biodiversity of the world’s oceans through ongoing projects in the Philippines, Palmyra Atoll, San Francisco Bay, and many other places around the world.

Additional support for the "Ocean Voices" project was provided by SchoolMessenger (, an innovator in fostering school-parent connections, and Oceana (, the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation.

Calendar editors please note:

NightLife, featuring the debut of "Ocean Voices"
6:00 – 10:00 pm ("Ocean Voices" performances at 7:30 and 8:30 pm)

Every Thursday night, the Academy opens its doors from 6-10 pm for NightLife, a chance for adults to explore the museum in a whole new light. This week, the Academy celebrates World Oceans Day and the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s birth with the debut performance of "Ocean Voices" by sound artist Halsey Burgund. Two of Jacques’s grandchildren, Celine Cousteau and Fabien Cousteau, will give a brief talk before each performance of "Ocean Voices." Additionally, Crucible Industrial Arts will be on hand to create underwater scenes from blown glass, and Plastic Century will be unveiled, a new installation created by scientists, futurists and artists about the increasing amounts of plastic in our oceans since Jacques Cousteau’s birth. As always, visitors can also dance to one of San Francisco's most popular DJs, enjoy food and cocktails, and mingle with the like-minded while exploring the Academy’s world-class exhibits and meeting aquarium critters. NightLife is for those ages 21 and over; a valid ID is required for entry.
Admission is $12 per person ($10 Academy members). California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.