Dinosaur Choir explores dinosaur vocalization via musical skull instruments. Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs are the current focus of the work as scientists hypothesize the animal uses its large head crest and nasal passages for vocal call resonation. I bring these calls to life as singing dinosaur musical instruments. I give voice to these dinosaur instruments by blowing into a mouthpiece, exciting a larynx mechanism and resonating the sound through a 3D replica of the dinosaur’s nasal cavities and skull, fabricated via CT (Computational Tomography) scans of the fossil. Our breath becomes the dinosaur’s breath. In a sense, the dinosaur instrument becomes a part of us, the same way a musical instrument becomes part of musicians as we play. The work allows physical and sounding engagement with the prehistoric past. Dinosaur Choir emerges from previous work reimagining the sounds of a subadult Corythosaurus, Rawr! A Study in Sonic Skulls. Dinosaur Choir expands upon this earlier work by realizing more dinosaurs as musical instruments, developing a computational rather than mechanical/physical syrinx, adapting to new scientific discoveries, and creating open source versions.

All the current musical instruments realize the Corythosaurus. A Corythosaurus is a duck-billed dinosaur, lambeosaurine hadrosaur that scientists hypothesize used its large head crest and nasal passages for vocal call resonation. The Corythosaurus is native to Alberta, Canada and lived in the late Cretaceous, around 75-77 million years ago. Thus, they lived around 15 million years before the KT extinction event which eradicated the non-avian dinosaurs. As adults, they are around 8-9 meters long. The skulls used for the musical instruments are around 0.9 meters long and 0.75 meters high. Hadrosaurs are herbivores but crustaceans (eg. crabs) have also been found in their stomachs.

The Online Corythosaurus Syrinx was developed by Courtney Brown in Tonejs as a plug-in/audio worklet using Web Audio API. These sounds are created by an implementation of the Neville Fletcher (1988) / Tamara Smyth (2002-04) syrinx (bird vocal box) model, a computational bioacoustical model of the physical mechanisms of the syrinx and vocal tract. The ChucK programming language was used to initially prototype the vocal sounds. The syrinx model was chosen due to the conclusions of researchers (Yoshida, et. al., 2023) who published on the first dinosaur larynx found from an ankylosaurus. They indicated that the larynx was bird-like and suggested a syrinx-like sound source. The parameters of the vocal model (originally developed from songbird data) were modified to reflect the trachea length and radius (and thus also syringeal membrane radius), which were estimated from Corythosaurus fossil measurements. Tracheal length measurements were provided by Thomas Dudgeon. In the model, sound is only resonated through trachea since it will physically resonate through a fabricated hollow crest in the physical hadrosaur skull instrument. Other biological parameters are adjusted (i.e. air pressure range, syringeal membrane thickness, tension range) for sound quality. These sounds and the interaction design are a work-in-progress and this work represents the first implementation of many upcoming models.

Dinosaur Choir is created by Courtney Brown, a musician, composer/sound artist, coder, researcher, and Argentine tango dancer. She is an assistant professor at the Center of Creative Computation, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University. Cezary Gajewski is a collaborator on Dinosaur Choir, working on the design of the physical replica and musical instruments. He is an associate professor and head of Industrial Design at the University of Alberta. Thomas Dudgeon provided CT scans, segmentations, 3D models, and paleontological consultations and is a paleontologist at University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum. See further acknowledgements and credits in the footer for the page.