Bernie Krause Soundscape Ecology

krauseBernie Krause has spent decades recording the sounds of nature.  He founded Wild Sanctuary to record and archive the sounds of nature and was instrumental in the development of soundscape ecology, promoting the relevance of the ‘acoustic environment’ to all within that ecosystem.

“There was a time when I considered natural soundscapes to be a worthless artifact,” he acknowledges. “Well, I was wrong. What I learned from these encounters was that careful listening gives us incredibly useful tools by which to evaluate the health of a habitat across the entire spectrum of life.”

First, some basics. A soundscape essentially consists of three sources: the “geophony,” or the non-biological sounds of any habitat, such as the wind in the trees and the waves on the beach; the “biophony,” or the collective sound organisms make in their collective wild habit; and the “anthrophony,” which is the sound humans make.

Nowadays, soundscape ecologists examine all three sources together. After all, “you wouldn’t try to understand the magnificence of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony by abstracting the sound of a single violin player out of the context of the orchestra and hearing just that one part.” So why would we try to understand only one line of nature’s musical notation system?

From TEDBlog

The strength of Bernie Krause’s work in relation to silence is simply his archival recordings and his observations as a field recorder and field naturalist.  He is also a pioneer in the field of soundscape ecology, where the acoustic environment is considered as part of an ecosystem and comprises:

  • biophony [Krause’s term] – sound from natural biological sources
  • geopheny – sound from non biological sources
  • anthropophony – sound from human sources
    • including technophony – electro-mechanical noise

Silence can be a problem, as it indicates the absence of all or some of these contributors.  His work in California’s Sierra Nevadas before and after logging has become an important discussion point.  The visual landscape has hardly changed after selective logging (consented to by the community) but the sonic landscape is much changed.

Recordings by Bernie Krause from Lincoln Meadow,
California’s Sierra Nevadas.
BEFORE logging (1988) and AFTER logging (1989).

Bernie Krause BEFORE Selective Logging
in Lincoln Meadow, California. Source cdellamore Soundcloud

Bernie Krause AFTER Selective Logging
in Lincoln Meadow, California. Source cdellamore Soundcloud

This is a 2013 TED Talk which includes reference to those soundscapes.


Wild Sanctuary Bernie’s site
Outside Online Interview: You Can Actually Hear the Climate Changing
Biophilic Cities Interview
The Great Animal Orchestra book
Soundscape Ecology Wikipedia page

Image from BiophilCities