The Age of Machine is Drowning Out Natural Sound
|October 17, 2012||Posted by Staff under Environmental|
Mechanical noise disrupts natural sound. Most places, it’s now nearly impossible to record uninterrupted natural sound.
by John Vidal
Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause traces the origins of human folk music back to the sounds of a place. The Baka in Cameroon, the Sami in northern Finland, some Inuit groups in Canada, and many others simulate the sound of the forest, the wind, the sea, or whatever natural surroundings are dominant to their own habitat.
Soundscapes, he says, are the most accurate way to understand the health of a whole habitat. He says he can tell how healthy a place is from a 10-second recording. Conservationists, he says, could learn how to assess ecological health from sound recordings. “It’s easy to do. It’s cheap. I don’t know why they don’t,” he says.
The evolution of natural sound, he says, seems to follow Darwinian evolution. Like an orchestra tuning up, a forest may wake up with the insects at around 2am, after which come the reptiles, the amphibians, the birds and lastly the mammals. Every animal has its niche, or its place in the animal orchestra, he says.
Mechanical, or industrial sound, he says, disrupts natural sound profoundly. It is now next to impossible in most western countries to record uninterrupted natural sound. Instead, planes, snowmobiles, traffic, chainsaws, mowers and human “music” pervade all habitats.
Noise may weaken immune systems in mammal and fish and compromise resistance to disease. Whales and cetaceans are profoundly affected by the sound of boats and underwater mechanical noise. For humans, the level of urban noise increased 12% from 1996 to 2005. More than one-third of all Americans complain of noise. More than 40% say it is so bad they would like to change where they live.