The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat editions 147 & 148: Bagging Wild Sounds

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

You've got to be totally quiet; stand like a statue. And then, if you're in the right place at the right time, you'll capture your sound. This edition of The WildeBeat: Bagging Wild Sounds

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is a combined version of program numbers one forty seven and one forty eight.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Naturalist Bernie Krause is quoted as saying, 'While a picture is worth a thousand words, a sound is worth a thousand pictures.' When it comes to wild places, this philosophy inspires some of us to close our eyes and listen. That's a goal of the non-profit Nature Sounds Society. Dan Dugan is their technical advisor.

DAN DUGAN: ...Our main event is our annual field recording workshop that's usually, but not always, held at the San Francisco State University Field Station at Yuba Pass at the end of June, and we also have occasional recording outings that we'll organize, and we have an annual tech talk, which is sort of an ...introduction to the workshop.

STEVE: Assistant producer Kate Taylor and I attended the annual field recording workshop of the Nature Sounds Society. And Kate is here with me. Welcome to the WildeBeat, Kate.

KATE: Hi, Thanks Steve.

STEVE: And thanks for joining us. You have prepared a piece about our experiences up there ...and first of all what were your impressions overall of the place that we visited?

KATE: Well, it was beautiful, both in sound and in sight. It was kind of like a community of tents and cabins with the main meeting place, of course, being the dining hall.

STEVE: And you had a room mate up there. Who was your room mate?

KATE: My room mate was Gina Farr, and she lives in Marin County, and she produces web-based environmental multimedia.

GINA FARR:I was talking to an ornithologist and I asked him, "Where are the best birds in the whole world?" And he said, "Well, everyone has a different opinion, and some people think it's the Sierras." So I thought I'd come up here and record some beautiful birds in the Sierras.

[SFX: Fade under Marsh]

KATE: It's five forty five in the morning, and we're here in Sierra Valley where we've just set-up our recording equipment. We got up at three A-M to drive down here. It's still pretty dark, and right now we're just waiting for the animals to wake up and hopefully we'll capture their sounds on our recording equipment.

[SFX: Fade to full, Marsh for 0:30, and fade out.]

[SFX: Fade under Bridge]

KATE: We've driven down the road a little ways, and we're at an old bridge now, where swallows are diving and swooping and there must be hundreds of the feeding on insects that inhabit the marsh underneath the bridge.

[SFX: Fade to full, Bridge for 0:30, and fade out.]

GINA FARR:We started recording this morning about an hour before first light, so that gives us a chance to get into positions so that when the dawn song begins, which is anywhere between, you know, an hour or half-an-hour before light, then we're there ...and recording, and...We were near some Tulles and some water and sage, so I got a lot of water birds, ducks, a wonderful Virginia Rail and Yellow-headed Cowbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

KATE: Chris Bell is an artist and a museum proprietor from Sydney, Australia. And this was his first Nature Sounds Society workshop.

CHRIS BELL:I have been recently getting into multimedia sculpture and installation using sound and video...I like to make soundscapes for it out of an amalgam of different sounds that I collect in the field; and I'm a complete novice with my equipment. My equipment is completely amateur...I'm totally self-taught, and a lot of the reason why I wanted to come here was to pick the brains and get some wisdom from experts, and find out just how amateur I am.

KATE: Some people were there just for fun, others do this for a living.

GINA FARR:I record sound so that I can share my experience with other people. I edit my recordings into stories and add images and put them on the web and on podcasts, so that people can experience this beautiful bird world up here in the Sierras or other places that I find have compelling sounds that connect me and hopefully others to our environment... I'm hoping to come home with about an hour's worth of Sierra spring birds.

MARTYN STEWART:Well I get sent out on various locations all over the world.

KATE: Martyn Stewart works for the B-B-C. He's from Scotland and and he gets shipped off all over the world to record various sounds from different animals that the B-B-C nature department might need.

MARTYN STEWART:I get backpacked off to various countries to record... To date, probably done thirty-three, thirty-four countries... The last project I was on was in Puerto Rico recording bats. I have about three hundred bats recorded in the world out of a thousand, so I've been trying to find bat recordings, and on top of that all the endemics of Puerto Rico; there's probably fourteen endemic species of birds in Puerto Rico, like the Puerto Rican Tanager and the Puerto Rican Screech Owl and all those, so that's that's the last lot I was working on... When I was eleven...I used to love the sounds that the insects made; so I used to get jar and collect flies, hover flies and all sorts of stuff that buzzed, and put the tin and the lid back on the jar and punch holes into it and then listen to it, and I thought this is just a fantastic world... As I got older my brother was in this rock band that he believed he could sing as well- as well as play his guitar — so I loaned or stole his mic off him; and and I went with off with the recorder and I was recording these insect sounds, and I just fascinated by it.

KATE: Some people, like Alton Byrd, are just up here for the fun of it.

ALTON BYRD:I'm here because I really kinda needed a short vacation and also, too, it's just really nice to get out into nature... For me it's kind of like a a rejuvenation hearing the nature sounds... I've been learning that I've been hearing sparrows and -- all different kind of stuff... there's just a a myriad of birds that I recorded and as well as I got some sounds of the stream that runs close by here as well... I was thinking about using them just for like kind of meditation and for relaxation instead of buying a commercial tape; I can just go out and go get the stuff myself and know what I'm listening to.

KATE: Alton lives in Berkeley, California, and works for a sound company. He's also a new member like Gina and Chris.

ALTON BYRD:I was always curious about nature sound recording; I'd done some amateur recordings -- but I knew that there'd be some professionals here...We went to a meadow that was a really, really kind of a pristine environment that we recorded for about an hour and fifteen minutes without any traffic or any planes or anything of that nature. And just to hear it like how it used to be like almost thousands of years ago was just really kind of striking.

KATE: Martyn has been recording nature sounds for over twenty years, so his experiences have given him the perspective of seeing the world change, particularly human impact on wild places.

MARTYN STEWART:I've found that the dawn choruses are so quiet in the morning compared to what they were ten years ago, twenty years ago; and sounds are diminishing — the natural sounds are diminishing... The the last endangered species that that I recorded was the Hawaiian Crow, and there are probably twenty-six of those left in existence; and I sat outside a propagating room — I wasn't allowed to see the bird... and I recorded these birds for an hour and- hour and a half and I cried my eyes out. I couldn't believe that I could be recording the last sounds of these birds... Programs like Animal- Animal Planet. Their audiences have increased ten-fold over the last five years, so people are out there and wanting to see what's happening. So I think by recording these animals and bringing it into people's lives makes them aware...the environmental impact from film, T.V., camera crews — it's heart-breaking sometimes to be able to work with people like that who do not respect the environment that they're trying to to record. Having said that, there are a lot of recordists who do respect what are out there because, like myself, I'm trying to gather as much information as possible to make people more aware of what's actually out there and what we need to protect.

CHRIS BELL:The internal combustion engine has really changed the way the, you know, the world is heard. There's never a minute without a Harley Davidson going by...Well I think the the goal is really realistic because the goal is giving your mind set about your your impact... it's nec- a necessary goal in terms of just to tuning you to your impact... I consider myself a nature-lover and protector of nature, yet a city can be something of a vortex and you ...can get really tied up in in the interesting things that happen in a city, and you can have all the intentions of the- in the world of leaving the city for a weekend, and I never do. So this has really refreshed me to realize- to make more of an effort to to get out and get some get some quiet time and some a- alone time.

MARTYN STEWART:When I was a kid I remember the word "extinction" kind of baffling me... I couldn't conceive why something goes and, you know, you've lost it — that you can't go and buy it back again... we've got the Polar Bear, we've got the Wyoming Toad, we've got the Hawaiian Crow... hundreds of other species ready to just exit on us, and with these go a thousand years, a million years of history.

[SFX: fade up NSS_Collage for 40 seconds, and then under and out.]

STEVE: Yuba Pass at dawn.

STEVE: Late morning at Madora Lake.

STEVE: Dawn at the outlet of Jameson Lake.

CHRIS BELL:Just the dimension of sound is so prevalent in our world and yet it's so misunderstood or disregarded, so I really like the idea of making an artwork that engages another sense... I still think there's a real necessity to remember and revere nature — well, you know, the natural un- unadulterated landscape.

GINA FARR:Listening to the natural world is magical, absolutely magical — and you don't need a recorder, you don't need headphones, and you don't need to get up an hour before dawn, and you can find that that that sensory connection with nature just by stepping outside.

STEVE: So, Kate, how much different was this event than what you were expecting?

KATE: Well, I was not expecting to get up and spend hours recording the sounds of the dawn chorus. But it was amazing, it was more than I expected. Before this I'd never taken the time to really notice the sounds around me. After spending hours listening to the natural sounds, planes and cars going by, umm, they're a nuisance now. I notice them more than I ever have.

STEVE: Well, Kate, thank you for telling the story of our adventures out there at the Nature Sounds Society annual field workshop.

KATE: You're welcome, Steve.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your questions about recording your own nature sounds, your experiences recording them, and we always want to hear anything else you think about our show. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373, or e-mail your comments to comments at wildebeat dot net. You can find links to more information about the Nature Sounds Society, additional nature sounds, pictures from the workshop, and download a high-quality stereo version of both parts of this show, on our web site.

STEVE: WildeBeat members can download an extended interview segment with Martyn Stewart, and additional nature sounds recordings from our WildeBeat Insider web pages.

STEVE: As a free, listener-supported service, we depend on you to help support our work. You can help by making a tax-deductible annual membership donation to our project. Membership levels start at sixteen dollars a year, and full membership is forty eight. For a limited time, become a WildeBeat member and get a weekend's worth of meals from Alpine Aire foods, books from Wilderness Press, access to bonus audio content, and more, as thank you gifts.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham and Kate Taylor, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, combined program numbers one forty seven and one forty eight.

Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- Waste Training.

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