DALLAS -- Fourteen undergraduates at UT Dallas got the opportunity of a lifetime after being asked to create soundscapes for the exhibit halls inside the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

A hall can feel empty if it's too quiet. It can feel chaotic if it's too noisy. These kind of ambient sounds help level all that out, said Daniel Kohl, Vice President for Creativity & Innovation at the Perot.

Fossils from another world are among the attractions at the new landmark, but the background music helps illustrate the story. Layers of natural and ambient sound, along with recordings, are designed to enrich exhibits.

Curators opted against hiring a high-tech sound studio in Hollywood to produce the audio element. The museum incorporated as much local talent as possible, Kohl said.

Dr. Frank Dufour, an associate professor at UT Dallas, thought his students were up to the challenge and sent the Perot dozens of e-mails for weeks asking for the job before ever hearing back.

I have this very nice e-mail saying 'I'm sorry not to have contacted you earlier, but I really want to meet with you and explore the possibilities,' Dufour recalled.

He and his students finally got the gig about a year-and-a-half ago. They spent the last year developing soundscapes on Apple computers in a UT Dallas classroom.

It's kind of like the icing on the cake, you know?, said Josh Casey, UT Dallas Senior, who worked on the project. I would say it's the biggest accomplishment in my life.

They used a lab, synthesizers and microphones to build the soundscapes.

If it's effective, it's unnoticed; it sparks imagination and compliments fossils tens of millions of years old. If nothing else, it's a unique cultural contribution from the creative minds of local college kids.

We have proven we are able to undertake big projects that involve sound, Dufour said.

While the soundscapes are already playing at the Perot, they're still a work in progress. Students and curators tell News 8 they keep tweaking the volume, and the UT Dallas team is reworking music for one of the halls.


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