Earth Breathing

Urban Aquarium: The Earth Breathing Through Its Elements is a duet between human breath and the Earth breathing through the elements of fire, air, water and spirit. The elements are personified by an African drummer, Kundalini yogi, aria singer and competitive swimmer and are paired with the ambient and ancient Tattwa symbols. The piece’s electroacoustic music is composed from digitally sampled sounds of human breath, the body and the environment.


Each Element in its Entirety





Tattwa Symbols

1. Akasa – Ether or Spirit: Black or indigo egg
2. Vayu – Air: Sky-blue disc or circle
3. Tejas – Fire: Red equilateral triangle
4. Apas – Water: Silver crescent
5. Prithivi – Earth: Yellow square or cube


These symbols are Hindu in origin. The traditional occult concept of the Tattwa is that of a vital current of Ether or Force – Hindu Pranas – which issues in a steady stream from the Sun. That stream is five-fold, and flows around our earth, vitalising its astral substance or its sphere of Sensation. They are the currents of sub-planes of the Astral Light. The theory has it that the Element of Akasa is strongest at dawn, when the Sun rises, and its power continues for the space of two hours, when its Force subsides and glides into Vayu, Air. This continues the same way for each Element. After the current of Prithivi is exhausted, the cycle recommences with Akasa, and continues in the same order again and for the same periods.


Conceived and Produced by Carolyn Speranza

Earth: Anicet Mundundu
Air: Rob Frankenberry
Fire: Brooke Smokelin
Water: Mei Lan Ho-Walker


Dave Koenig and the Invertebrate Zoology lab at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Elmer’s Aquarium, Buzz Miller and the Works Theater at the Carnegie Science Center and Dr. Cary Simons.


Video: Carolyn Speranza on camera and editing, Jared Early on lights. Additional footage contributed from Carnegie Museum of Natural History Exhibitions Design, the Minden and Jarvick Biology Labs, Mellon Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and Mike Converly on scuba diving footage. Shooting locations include Pittsburgh Zoo/Aquarium, National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory and the University Center swimming pool at Carnegie Mellon University.


Music composed by Eric Moe with  Chris Strollo recording audio for Water.


Originally commissioned by First Night Pittsburgh, Inc. under the title, Urban Aquarium: Cleansing Breath. Funded in part by the Central Development and Research Fund of the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Research and the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency. The PA Partners program is funded by the citizens of Pennsylvania through an annual legislative appropriation, and administered locally by ProArts(The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council). The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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