Tuesday 7 November 2017

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause


 This wide ranging book takes as its starting point the soundscapes of wilderness areas (of which there are a diminishing number as the human population increases, encroaching onto previously pristine habitats.)

From there, Bernie Krause, former musician and sound recordist examines natural sounds and how humans have intereacted with them, from devising our first music inspired by the natural sounds around us to our impact on nature, both through destroying habitats to the huge impact of human generated noise on the world.

It turns out that even an environment that looks to the eye to be healthy can reveal itself, through analysis of recordings of its soundscapes, to be much less complete that it seems. Krause gives many examples of specific habitats that he has studied and found to be diminished. He also examines the impact of human noise - by for example demonstrating how a jet flying over an area can disrupt the natural soundscape.

Soundscape is the sum of all the sounds made by all the animals and other natural features in an area, including bird songs and calls, wind and rain, to mention just a few. Most sound recordists focus on recording individual species and the study of intact soundscapes is under resourced. Similarly where  modern music takes inspiration from nature it tends to be by using the sounds of one bird or other natural sound and the whole of nature's soundscape is generally ignored.

This is a fascinating book, full of intriguing facts though very sobering in its assessment of our impact on the natural world. It ends with a plea to be quiet and respectful of the natural world.

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause published by Profile Books (2013)


Lynn said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. There's nothing I love more than being in the perfect quiet, with only the sounds of nature around. It's hard to find where I live in Atlanta, Georgia, but I do get that when I visit the North Carolina mountains.

Gwil W said...

You might enjoy Sugawa's 'Fuzzy Bird'. It's on YouTube. Parts II and III are magical. The parts, each 5 minutes, feature piano and sax. They are called Bird Run, Bird Sing, Bird Fly.