For extensive writings, photos and sounds from this project visit

Cheryl E. Leonard was awarded a 2008/2009 Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Grant from the National Science Foundation. In the austral summer of 2008/2009 she journeyed to Palmer Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula to create musical compositions using natural sounds and materials.

While onsite in Antarctica, Cheryl played amplified natural materials (ice, stone, water, moss, feathers, shells and bones) as musical instruments. She recorded compositional elements and improvisations created with these sounds, made field recordings of the region's wildlife and natural soundscapes, and gathered a few Antarctic natural objects to bring back to the U.S. and use as instruments in live performances.

Leonard has crafted a set of nine musical works that combine sounds from natural object instruments with the recordings she made in Antarctica. Each piece has a unique theme which is embodied in its musical structures, instrumentation and the process of creating the work. Compositions explore sea ice, glaciers, the Antarctic circumpolar current, wind and storm patterns, geological and paleontological histories, human exploration and exploitation, adaptations of life to environmental extremes, and changing terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Themes focus on topics under current scientific investigation in the region and highlight connections between the Antarctic Peninsula and global climate change.

Completed musical compositions are being performed in a series of live concerts, in the U.S. and abroad, from 2009 through 2015. Recordings of the compositions will be released in the spring of 2015. CHATTERMARKS, a CD of Cheryl's Antarctic field recordings, is now available.

Order the Antarctic sounds CD
CHATTERMARKS: Field Recordings from Palmer Station, Antarctica


Musical instruments made from penguin bones and Antarctic limpet shells

Score for one of the compositions / Performing live in San Francisco




The National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program; Subito, the quick advancement grant program of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum;
the Composer Assistance Program of the American Music Center; the Eric Stokes Fund: Earth's Best in Tune; Aquarian Audio; 23five Incorporated; Electronic Musician Magazine; Rastascan Records; Northern Naturals

And generous donations from the following individuals:
William and Janet Leonard, Rachel Nobel, Aaron Ximm, Cliff Neighbors, Matt Helm, Jon Brack, Ron Leonard, Cameron Momtaz, Tal Herman, Susan Dentel, Jane Perry, Heather Davison, Mary Stein, Jason Sack, Alexander Sacco, Barbara Gitlin, Susan Frank, Brian Hogencamp, Dave Lubertozzi, Rebecca Haseltine, Janet Um, Cherie Carson, Agnes Szelag, Dave Feldt, Jess Gerodias, Polly Moller, Audrey Howard, Michael Straus, Dana Jessen, Heather Polley, Surabhi Saraf, Michelle Jack, Mellisa Margolis, Karen Stackpole.