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Entering the soundscape with Bernie Krause

In this episode of Crosscurrents, we go on a sonic tour of sounds from everyday life, led by bioacoustician and soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause.

Part I.

Bernie Krause says if we really listen, we’ll hear an animal orchestra out there and we need to protect it.

“Fully 50 percent of the habitats I’ve recorded are now quiet. It tells us about so many things about ourselves and how we’re doing in relationship to the rest of the living world around us,” says Krause.

Crosscurrents managing editor Martina Castro, producer of a series called Audiophiles, and Audiograph producer Julie Caine visited Krause in his studio, in Glen Ellen, on the edge of Sonoma Valley Regional Park to discuss the 4,500 hours of soundscapes he’s produced – and how to find the origins of music in the world’s wildest places.

Krause says, “If we can hear well, then we need to be really quiet and listen to the natural world around us, because it's healing, it's very informative, it has lots of information, tells lots of stories it's a narrative of place. If you want to know where you are, listen to what's happening around you and you can tell much more about the place that you're in by what you hear than by what you see.”

Click the audio player below to hear the first part of this episode.  

Part II.

When Bernie Krause discovered the orchestral nature of the sounds he was recording, he thought he was on to something big. As far as he knew, no one had done anything quite like this before.

“Because all of the methodology to that time, the early 80s mid-80s, all of the methodology of recording in the field had been with the objective to fragment the soundscape, take things out of context or record them one at a time with these large parabolic dishes,” says Krause.

A parabolic dish is basically a microphone that looks like a satellite dish, and it works like a zoom lens on a camera – recording things that are far away.

The first person to develop a parabolic dish was Ludwig Koch, a German man who moved to the UK and in 1889 recorded the first bird.

Click the audio player below to hear the second part of this episode.

WEB.Krause.Part2 Corrected.mp3

Part III.

Bernie Krause actually got his start in music. He was trained in violin at a very young age. Later, he recorded with some big time musicians, like the Doors, The Monkees, Stevie Wonder, and George Harrison.

He was among the first musicians to experiment with synthesizers, and worked on movies like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now.

But he was looking for something more, and in 1968 he and his creative partner, Paul Beaver, decided to make an album that would incorporate natural sounds. It was called Wild Sanctuary.

When Beaver passed away suddenly, Krause took that as a sign and left the musical world for the natural one, for good – and has been building his collection of soundscapes ever since.

Click the audio player below to hear the third part of this episode.


If you want to know more about Krause’s field of study, soundscape ecology, you can read all about it in his book, “The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places.”

Crosscurrents Audiograph