Entomology and music aren’t exactly natural bedfellows. For Lisa Schonberg, a drummer and insect enthusiast, that was a problem. Either her research projects were being interrupted by her commitment to bands like Explode Into Colors, or her ecology jobs were leaving her feeling creatively stifled. In 2013, she finally decided to combine the two: On a grant from Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council, she and artist Aidan Koch spent a month in Hawaii studying the islands’ native and increasingly rare Hylaeus bees for an illustrated book and a set of compositions for her Secret Drum Band directly inspired by the habitats she visited.


asked her to describe how that translates musically. 

"Sometimes it's actually direct samples of soundscapes. There's this one place we stayed at, where there were these Coqui frogs that are native to Puerto Rico who've become established in this one part of the Big Island, and they're all you hear at night. It's crazy. It's kind of beautiful but kind of intense at the same time. So I recorded that, and one of the pieces draws on that a lot. It features samples from that, but I also sat there and thought about how I could interpret it rhythmically. Another specific example, we were at this other site that is a really good habitat for the bees, and there were these cicadas calling at night, and the way their calls came in and out and stacked on each other, the patterns inspired a piece where [the calls] were represented by four different people on snare drums with rolls.

"I'm just really interested in this idea of looking at a place and what's going on ecologically through sounds. The Coqui frogs in that one place are an introduced organism that's kind of taken over. They've replaced things that would be there, and you can tell just by listening what's going on."

SEE IT: The Hylaeus Party, featuring the Secret Drum Band, Dubais, Marisa Anderson and DJ Allan Wilson, is at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., on Sunday, Jan. 12. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.