photo by Greenpeace
An interestingly titled article popped up yesterday in my inbox from the NYT' morning summary. It talked about nature and essential field recordings.
This is a vital area for me, something in which I have been involved for over 40 years, you can imagine it did ring some bells. The NYT has produced commendable articles focusing on the problem of noise and the importance of the acoustic environment, so I hoped this one would be along these lines. We need as much press as possible for these causes.
I jumped into the article and immediately noticed that some of the most important pioneers in this field were absent, although contemporary and well respected names were indeed included. 12 recordings were listed, deemed as "essential listening", produced by people that have systematically or occasionally used sound recording to document nature, for their artistic projects or some other purpose. Of these, ca. 50% include the sounds such as those of Midwest casinos, empty rooms of Chernobyl, natural vibrations of pipes, bottles, fences, and other "natural" gems.
Absent from this list of essentials were pioneer composers and sound ecologists from the Canadian World Soundscape Project, founding members of the French GRM (although Luc Ferrari comes to the rescue with a piece that includes such natural and essential sounds as "bicycle bells (and) puttering boat motors",) prominent people like Bernie Krause, and literally hundreds of names of people that have dedicated their lives throughout the world to preserving the natural acoustic environment by recording it extensively.
This is an important topic. Why does the sound of the natural environment matters? Field recording is a key component in answering to this question and an essential tool in the environmental struggle. A list of self-entitled essential field recordings of the natural world should thus be based on clear criteria and the product of a much more carefully selected set of choices. Absent from the article is a call for the importance of the act of listening and an invitation to pay attention to the natural acoustic environment. I wonder why the author titled his piece "Need More Nature? Listen to 12 Essential Field Recordings" (my italics.) Of course we need more nature, but whatever the concept of nature Mr. Weingarten exactly had in mind, it may be the reason why so many people keep their eyes closed to the fact that the natural world is on fire today.