Animal sounds and music

This video is called THE GREAT ANIMAL ORCHESTRA by Bernie Krause: Water Sounds.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

The Great Animal Orchestra

by Bernie Krause (Profile Books, £12.99)

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause is passionate about sound and he can describe, with poetic beauty, the noise of a virus or a falling snowflake.

Verging on the obsessive, he is also not averse to creating cat-shaped ears out of cardboard in order to better understand how the pinna funnel – the visible part of the ear – sounds.

Krause’s mission is to make people passionate about what he terms biophony, sound made by all animals excluding humans, and geophony, natural sound such as wind and rain.

These sounds, he argues, underpin everything else including human speech and music.

According to his “niche hypothesis,” individual species occupy a unique bandwidth within this biophony.

This allows them to navigate, warn one another of predators, and attract mates.

Evolving over hundreds of thousands of years, it’s an “orchestral” sound that humans ignore at their own risk, Krause argues.

With the aid of spectrograms he demonstrates the effects humans have on animal life, be that by clear-cutting rainforests or the noise generated by military operations.

He describes in heartbreaking detail the vocalisations made by a beaver after wardens destroyed its dam and family and of zoo animals resorting to infanticide after being spooked by a military jet.

Krause also convincingly argues that such industrialised white noise is stressful to human life, reducing both efficiency and concentration levels.

Such discussions make a fascinating new chapter to the conventional environmentalist books.

But it would be misleading to file The Great Animal Orchestra alongside such works.

Large sections are part autobiography and travelogue, taking the reader from one exotic location to another as Krause is manhandled by gorillas or surrounded by crocodiles in a flimsy boat.

Some chapters presume a certain amount of musical knowledge, although meaning can generally be inferred by the context.

And they require tolerance of the slightly eccentric, such as the challenge to Western composers to take inspiration from holistic wild soundscapes.

The rambling prose style can make the book heavy going in places but it is worth persevering with for the fascinating, if at times alarming, facts and environmental consequences of deafening ourselves to the sounds of nature.

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