The Great Animal Orchestra – Bernie Krause’s aural odyssey intosoundscapes

I’ve been enchanted this week by a new book from musician-cum-author-cum-soundscapist Bernie Krause called The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places.

I first caught him being interviewed on Monocle magazine’s radio station, on Monocle Weekly. It’s available to listen again – episode 143. He spoke warmly about his passion for making field recordings in some of earth’s wildest places, capturing the sounds of the surrounding wildlife with as much clarity as possible.

Very quickly, Krause realised that rather than just a random collection of sounds, patterns could be found in the frequency and volume of the seemingly disparate calls. He took his intricate, chaotic recordings and fed them through computer software which visualised the sounds, revealing the patterns he had suspected.

His book goes into great detail in describing his theories of seeing (or rather, hearing) the sounds of wildlife as not just a random chaos, but as something akin to a symphonic orchestra.

To be honest, it’s here that it gets a bit beyond me. But on top of Krause being a very engaging, modest and passionate speaker, Radio 4 has chosen The Great Animal Orchestra is its Book of the Week. And although it’s read by someone other than the author, it still makes for a fascinating listen, the narration is interwoven with his field recordings, and it all makes for some of the most sublime radio you could hope for.

All five fifteen-minute episodes of Book of the Week are, of course, available to hear again on iPlayer. Episode one is only online until late Monday night though, with each episode following suit a day later, so you’ll want to catch up as soon as possible.

There’s a whole lot more interviews and features about Krause and his book to be found online, and of course the book is available in paper form, or as an ebook, read by its author. I look forward to picking up a copy of the book itself.

In related stuff, there was a fascinating article on NYTimes.com recently, following soundscapists staking out some of the most silent environments in Alaska – before it’s too late: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/is-silence-going-extinct.html?_r=2

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