The Deafening Sound of Man

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The Deafening Sound of Man

2012-09-10T11:19:20+00:00September 10th, 2012|Ecology, Issues, Pollution, Uncategorized|2 Comments

My title here derives from a quote in this article about Dr. Bernie Krause:

“A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening. Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence.”

~ From The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

Through my Facebook feed this morning, via Defenders of Wildlife, I linked to A Great Silence is Spreading Over the Natural World, a piece in the Guardian UK’s Sixth Extinction series. Dr. Krause, whose background includes a musical career with Motown Records, tape-records the soundscapes in natural environments — terrestrial, marine and beyond. Most interesting to me is the work he’s done comparing sound environments before and after various forms of human intrusion, adding the information derived to the greater scope of conservation dynamics.

My cell memory still stirs when I think about the Orca communication we listened to last year through a hydrophone. It was in the same area where University of Washington researchers were conducting their Orca scat tests with Tucker the scat-sniffing dog (photo in the linked post). There’s power and poignance in hearing something you’ve never heard, coupled with the understanding that this world exists parallel to your own, in every moment. That’s the element that Krause’s recordings bring to light and to our ears.

I haven’t yet read his book although it’s on my list. So, my knowledge of his work is, right now, cursory at best. If you have additional insight to add, please feel free to comment here. The Guardian article provides an overview of this work with some sound clips.

After reading through the comments below the piece (with a few requisite trolls posting), I came upon a link to this presentation that Dr. Krause gave at the California Academy of Sciences (video below). The presentation is fascinating, ear-opening and heartbreaking all at once. A few examples include: comparing a forest environment before and after selective logging (approx. 16 minutes in); a comparison of snowmobile sounds in Yellowstone against a more pristine natural soundscape (at approx. 22 minutes); and, the moaning calls of an injured male beaver after USFWS blew up the dam where his mate and babies lived and died (approx. 25 minutes). It’s impossible not to be moved by his discoveries. For me, it’s yet another a turning point in an ongoing paradigm shift.

Here’s the full video from the Academy of Sciences presentation:

Dr. Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra from California Academy of Sciences and California Academy of Sciences on


  1. Katie (Nature ID) September 11, 2012 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Often when we’re out hiking, the lack of animal calls is quite noticeable. I particularly liked the part of the video where Bernie shows how visually the forest looks the same, but the sound tells a completely different story. I sent this blog post to Lang Elliot. Here’s a link to one of my favorite recordings of his:

    • ingrid September 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Katie, isn’t that incredible (the forest scene)? And, thanks for the link~! I’m looking forward to exploring Lang Elliot’s work.

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