Chamber duo New Morse Code capturing sounds of community



When New Morse Code comes to town to perform in the University of Dayton’s Sears Recital Hall on Wednesday, April 6, cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello will also be out in the community. The recent winners of the Impact Performance Prize sponsored by Ariel Avant will spend part of their time in Dayton gathering sounds for an expansive new project.

“The mission of the Ariel Avant competition is to create a concert program addressing some issue of sustainability,” said Compitello, who teaches at Arizona State University. “So, the work we’ll be playing address the urgency of climate action on the one hand and the optimism around space exploration and renewable energy on the other hand.”

The current Ariel Avant Impact Performance Tour repertoire features pieces by three contemporary composers. Christopher Stark’s “The Language of Landscapes” is for cello, percussion, electronics and video. “Next Week’s Trees” by Viet Cuong is a new arrangement for cello, marimba and vibraphones. The third piece, a new commissioned Andy Akiho composition for cello and percussion with video, was inspired by the OSIRIS-REx project on the Bennu asteroid.

For Compitello, it’s fitting this tour includes “The Language of Landscapes.”

“This process was inspired by Chris’ piece,” he said. “He created it with us by doing field recordings of natural sounds — wind, water — in a number of places throughout the country. Those field recordings throughout the piece are sort of transformed, looked at, interrogated and compared and contrasted with the cello and percussion sounds. It creates kind of a dichotomy between natural sounds and artificial sounds. It really creates a powerful commentary on the way in which our natural world impacts our lives.”



In the field

On each stop of the tour, the concert is paired with community engagement activities.

“We’ll be doing the show, but we’ll also be working with a community organization in each city to create our own pieces based on field recordings,” said Collins, who teaches at the University of Kansas. “We’re setting it up where it’s an ongoing conversation. When we visit each city, we’re going to be collecting local sounds specific to that location. We’ll be doing that ourselves or through our partners. Then, we’ll build some musical themes that are specific to each place.”

New Morse Code will upload those collected sounds and musical themes to an online repository, making Dayton part of multi-city sonic dialog.

“We’ve actually already started building those into a web resource where you can go explore all the different local themes we’ve built,” Collins said. “We’ll do a little bit of that work here in Arizona and then we’ll have this tour. Next season, we plan to continue adding more locations and expanding the project. We’re exploring how those things occur on a local level, whether it’s a coastal community, a plains community or in the mountains in the west that are being threatened by fires right now. We’ll get sounds to capture some of those local differences, so we’ll have sort of a national exploration of the way climate change is affecting communities.”

Long-term teams

Collaboration has been a big part of New Morse Code’s aesthetic since the two musical partners formed the chamber outfit a decade ago. The duo released its debut album, “Simplicity Itself,” in 2017, followed by “dwb (driving while black)” in 2021. A recorded version of “The Language of Landscapes,” which Collins and Compitello commissioned in 2014, will be released later this year.

“Our identity as a group is really centered on long-term creative projects,” Collins said. “That’s really what we love to do. We work with collaborators, composers and other musicians and really get to know people over a long period of time like we have with Chris Stark. We sort of develop projects at the pace they want to develop at. We just let them mature and evolve as needed.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


Who: University of Dayton’s ArtsLIVE presents New Morse Code

Where: University of Dayton, Sears Recital Hall, Jesse Philips Humanities Center, 300 College Park, Dayton

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6

Cost: Free for UD students, $18 general admission, $15 seniors 60 and older and UD alumni, $10 UD employees and retirees, $5 youth and students younger than 21

More info: 937-229-2545 or

Artist info:

About the Author