Spotlight: The sounds of the Arb

The soft song of a sparrow, the quiet hum of a cricket, the wind whistling through the trees and freight trains rumbling past are among the many sounds in the Nichols Arboretum that allow Greg Laman to compose his unique music.

“I have been making sound recordings for use in a variety of musical compositions and performances for quite a few years,” says Laman, a computer systems consultant in the School of Music. He began recording in the arboretum as part of the “Sounds of the Arb” project in collaboration with landscape designer and artist Stacie Printon. The intention of this project was to highlight the auditory and visual environment of the Arb.

(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

Laman and Printon have visited the Arb in different seasons and at different times of day since their initial project in 2001. Laman’s sound recordings and Printon’s photographs form the basis of a collaborative arts project that will culminate with the release of a CD and multimedia performance at 8:30 p.m. May 1 and 8 in the Reader Center in the Arboretum.

“I record sounds onto digital audio tape using a stereo parabolic microphone, then transfer the sections that I want to use to the computer,” Laman says. “Once the recordings are on my hard drive, I can use them as source material for composition and improvisation–using software to mix different recordings together, edit small fragments of sound into rhythmic loops, change their pitch and duration, and use equalization to eliminate some frequencies and emphasize others.”

The son of Michigan natives, Laman was born in Sasebo, Japan. Around age 10, he moved to Tokyo and resided there until his high school graduation. Laman earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Hope College in Holland and a master’s degree in trumpet performance from the U-M School of Music.

A University staff member since 1997, Laman works on the IT staff at the School of Music. His primary responsibility is to support students and faculty who use instructional technology, including the music technology facilities used by the department of performing arts technology. Laman also helps with desktop support for faculty and staff, as well as helping to maintain the School of Music’s servers.

An outdoor enthusiast, Laman enjoys outdoor activities including wind-surfing, backpacking, hiking, sailing, skiing, mountain biking and canoeing.


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