I remember starry nights at our summer house in Argentina. We would lie on reclining chairs or directly on the grass, contemplate the stars and enjoy the sound-filled air, a harmony of tiny voices, not at all like the man-made cacophony of cities. Chirps and tweets and peeps and murmurs and trills and purrs and an occasional distant bark or snort created a richly embroidered tapestry of sounds. We spoke softly or not at all to better savor the views and sounds.
Many years later, my memory of those long gone peaceful nights was jogged by a lecture with the title: “The Great Animal Symphony”. The speaker, Dr. Bernie Krause, has been collecting recordings of the so called nature soundscapes; not just the voices of specific animals, but the intricately complex combination of sounds that characterizes each locale on Earth.
He explained that the members of an animal community talk to each other in distinctive voices to avoid confusion with the many other voices nearby. Thus, each one has been refining its special signature of pitch, spacing of sounds and timing.
The result is rich and full of subtlety, in sharp contrast with the jarring dissonances of cars, planes, lawnmowers and similar noise makers found near any human habitation nowadays. Dr. Krause, urged by the rapid loss of nature soundscapes, keeps traveling to remote areas to record the remaining sounds of nature before they are gone.
I wish I had paid more attention to the magical night music at our country house. I could have tried to identify some of the members of that finely tuned orchestra. It is possible that some are already lost because of planes flying overhead and trees being cut down.
I realize now that the members of that orchestra had been polishing and rehearsing their symphony for many thousands of years. Can they cope with the intrusion of alien sounds? Are we destroying in a matter of decades what took eons to develop?
Dr. Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra
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