Sound Thoughts

Sunrise at Crystal Reservoir

Soundscapes.  The American Society of Acoustic Ecology, The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, The Acoustic Ecology Institute, The World Listening Project, are organizations concerned with the study of our acoustical world.    They all have a common way of defining a soundscape, and it’s no coincidence that their definition greatly influences how I think about the soundscapes I record.  They define a soundscape by having three primary elements, geophony, anthrophony, biophony.  The sounds created by the earth, the geophony, often makes up the background element of a soundscape.  The sounds of falling water or blowing wind often serves as an accompaniment in my recordings.  I think there is a bit of artistry expressed when searching for water and wind sounds that consists of the right tone and balance to make a pleasing stereophonic background.  The sounds of man and his machines make up the anthrophony of a soundscape.  Natural soundscape recordists usually consider man made sounds to be unwanted noise and strive to avoid recording the sounds of jet engines, passing cars and rumbling Harley’s.  Unfortunately, with each new road and each new jet flight, escaping the anthrophony is becoming an evermore difficult challenge.  The sounds of birds, mammals and insects make up the biophony.  If the geophony makes up the foundation of a soundscape, then the song of a bird, the call of a coyote, the buzz of a cicada makes up the melody of a natural soundscape.  Using these definitions as a guide, one notices that the different environments of a refuge such as Ash Meadows each have a unique soundscape.  In a wetland environment, the sound of the wind blowing through the reeds and the call of waterfowl are different than the sounds of a mesquite bosque environment, where a songbird, calling for a mate, has staked out his perch near a gurgling stream.  In the outlying desert scrub of the refuge, Gambel’s quail and coyotes sound different still.  A particular locale will even sound different from season to season.  Around a pond in the springtime, the green cattails sound soft when stirred by the wind.  When the wind blows in the fall, those same cattails, now dry and brittle, produce a harsher tone.  Still around the pond, songs of summer time birds are replaced by calls of winter time waterfowl.  When my microphones capture the geophony and biophony of a healthy, natural environment that produces a rich and varied soundscape, then I consider the outing to be successful.

As a point of clarification for those that don’t know me, I am not a professional acoustic ecologist, biologist, or “ologist” of any type.  I’m not a professional sound recordists, either.  Although I have some paid experience in that field.  I’m just a regular citizen of Las Vegas, Nevada who has an interest in soundscape recordings, who has always loved the outdoors, and one who has become interested in a larger project.  I’m not claiming to be an expert in any of this stuff, however, advice, corrections and words of encouragement are welcomed, respected and very much appreciated.  Thank you for joining me today.

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2 thoughts on “Sound Thoughts

  1. Your words eloquently describe the peaceful sounds of nature at Ash Meadows. My hope is that your blog will entice the ‘city dwellers’ to spend a moment in time in a place where time can be forgotten for just a moment.

  2. Thank you Fred, for giving someone who has left the area, a chance to stay connected with the most beautiful and important aspect of that area… well besides some of the people such as yourself.
    Jesse S.

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