Susie Ibarra is a Filipinx composer, percussionist, and sound artist. Her interdisciplinary practice spans formats, including performance, mobile sound-mapping applications, multi-channel audio installations, recording, and documentary.
Many of Ibarra’s projects are based in cultural and environmental preservation. She has worked to support Indigenous and traditional music cultures, such as musika katatubo from the north and south Philippine islands. She also collaborates with The Joudour Sahara Music Program in Morocco on initiatives that preserve sound-based heritage with sustainable music practices and support the participation of women and girls in traditional music communities.
Ibarra's sound research has advocated for the stewardship of glaciers and freshwaters. Water Rhythms: Listening to Climate Change (2020) is a collaboration with glaciologist, geographer, and climate scientist Dr. Michele Koppes, which maps water rhythms from source to sink. Ibarra’s composition is derived from field recordings of five global watersheds, including the Greenland ice sheet and glacier-fed rivers of the Himalayas. Water Rhythms is an acoustic story of human entanglements with a changing climate and landscape. The premiere of Water Rhythms was presented by Fine Acts Foundation and TED at Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Innisfree Gardens, Millbrook, NY (2020). It has also been shown at The Countdown Summit, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom (2021); as part of Nothing Makes Itself at the ARKO Art Center, Seoul, Korea (2021); and as a multi-channel sound installation at Fridman Gallery, Beacon, NY (2021).
As a producer, Ibarra collaborates with Splice to create sound packs based in environmental sounds, traditional musical cultures, and her own extended percussion language. Sounds of the Drâa Valley Morocco is a sound pack featuring six traditional ensembles and soloists from South Saharan Morocco (2022). Ibarra has also collaborated with composer and bassist Richard Reed Parry on two sound packs and a new album of compositions focused on breath cycles and heart beats, Heart and Breath: Rhythm and Tone Fields (OFFAIR Records, 2022).
Ibarra is a recipient of the National Geographic Storytelling Grant (2020); a United States Artists Fellowship (2019); the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship (2018); a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2017); and a TED Fellowship (2010). She is a Yamaha, Vic Firth, and Zildjian drum artist.
She holds a B.M. from Mannes College of Music and a B.A. from Goddard College.
I spend most of my time listening. I listen to everything in my environment as much as I can—with my whole body and all of my senses. Sometimes, what I hear is as focused as a gong note; other times, the experience is as diffuse as a multitude of sounds rushing through me. Certain sounds ground me, and certain sounds allow me to float. I find myself drawn to these sounds, which so often come from the natural environment. Our systems and communities of sounds are built around nature. I often return to and am inspired by our deep connection to traditional sounds, which are connected to our present and future voices and sounds. I find myself associating in this way, finding rhythms that have been played for centuries. Some of the first drummers were birds and mountain streams. There are rhythms in the sounds of wind and travelers in a desert oasis. I hear a drumbeat in the noise and the movement of a child’s daily routine, the sound of an elder’s careful step as they descend the stairs. Rhythm is in cycles of life, both racing and whispering through sound.
- December 2021