Recording the world


Bernie Kraus’s wildlife soundscapes are truly amazing. How he has been able to capture such a variety of sound over his years of recording, not only for the purpose of re-using these sounds for artworks, museums and movies, but also as an environmental activist to provide evidence of global warming and man made destruction.

Every environment has a unique sound signature (2013), some, like the Amazon rainforest has an abundance of wildlife, all with a different call. These signatures contain an array of information, from the time of day it is, to the types of animals living within that ecosystem, to the weather. According to Krause, there are 3 different layers to any soundscape within any environment. One being the sounds that are not generated by “non-biological” (2013) sources like the wind or rain. This is known as the Geophony (2013) layer. The second layer is generated by the living creatures/organisms, known as the Biophony (2013). Then lastly this is the human sounds that are generated, mechanical or Anthrophony (2013). It is in these layers a listener can decipher the number of animals that are residing within one area.

Originally recording birds and later mammals and other organisms, Krause refers to these recordings as similar to dissecting Batavians fifth symphony. Disassembling the work and picking out the individual instruments in order to just hear that one section. Likewise, he believes that one can pin point different sounds and create an orchestra of animal noises from simply recording the ambient noises surrounding you in any environment, or a single animal and repeating this sound over and over. 

Kraus, however, does not just generate musical and ambient pieces from his own recordings. He reminisces about how when he began making his recordings there was such an abundance of wildlife that he could generate 1 hour of quality recording from 10 hours of work. Unfortunately, now he believes that this has been slashed by 50% due to the destruction of the environment curtacy of man. Meaning he could record up to 1000 hours of sounds, with barely any of this worth keeping. 

Kraus has gone to places, such as Lincoln’s meadow, to record the dawns chorus in order to understand the impact of mans destruction of environments. His work shows how incredibly different these environments have been effected. That the ears can prove that while the eyes don’t see any changes, the density of animals is altered dramatically. 

It is through his own work, that we can are able to “see” how dramatically the world is changing and how this destruction can take years and years to heal from our impact on the world. His work really is, truly, astounding. 

TEDGlobal, 2013, The voice of the natural world:


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