Soundscapes

Secrets can be heard sung by a thousand voices

.each one as ancient as the next,

each on as precious as the next.

.The river sings, the mountain speaks,

Creatures from water, to earth, to air, together

. the blue print for music is fomed

The wild, the musical mother of humanity

A Wise Wolf Listens To The Voices Of The Wild

The inspiration for the name Missing Wolf came from the importance of the natural world to me and my work. In listening to, and recording, soundscapes an engagement with the surrounding world developed that I have found to be unique. My focus is on the disappearing voices of the natural world and the conflict between human sounds or noise, the Anthrophony, and the animal and geological sounds, Biophony, and Geophony. It is ever more apparent that our world is being dramatically changed and much is being lost everyday, the question is how are we to protect what is left? Listening, becoming aware, and understanding the nature of our world, I believe, is imperative.

It is my intention to incorporate the scientific field of Soundscape Ecology in recognition of a desire for the disciplines of field recording, sonic art, music, environmentalism, and activism to combine. Inspired by the works of soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause I have turned my ears to the natural world, to be inspired, to protect and to work with this beautiful place we call home.

Sugarloaf State Park

Sonoma Valley, as dubbed by Jack London as “Valley of the Moon, is home to several little-known California state parks, each with its own spectacular natural biophony. Sugar loaf is a spectacular example of those parks topographically diverse and in some places more then a little bit wild in quality. Dr Bernie Krause introduced me to the sites he has been monitoring over the past 15 years or so recording the dawn chorus through out the spring each year. A startling trend was appearing as the dawn chorus fell gradually silent. To look at Sugarloaf you could see no problems but your ears would tell you a different story.

In April of 2017, many birds had nested in the coyote brush and oak trees that camouflaged the creek, which cuts through the heart of this riparian habitat at Sugarloaf Ridge. Due to draught the river had not been running but in 2017 there had been enough rain and snow fall to see the creek flowing once again. So we were heading out week after week hopeful that we may hear a rejuvenation of the biophony as the draught had effected it so dramatically. Well after a month heading out into the wild we finally heard what we had been waiting for. This recording was made at the high of the dawn chorus, which was later then usual in May 2017. A dense, lively, and diverse dawn chorus that lasted over an hour from the dark of first light until the sun hung in the morning sky. Junco’s, song sparrows, white crowned sparrows, wild turkey, and more create this wild symphony.

 

 

Recording at Sugarloaf State Park

First with Dr Krause and later alone heading out along the short hike down the trail to the coyote brush where the birds are starting to nest for the spring we would set up and wait. Further down the trail I wanted to experiment to see what was going on the other side of the creek. Well I was not disappointed as I was immersed in a spectacular biophony which had only just started to appear. It was also my pleasure to be present with Dr Bernie Krause the first time the dawn chorus had returned at Sugarloaf after years of absence. The smile on the mans face to hear the sounds that are so precious return to a place that was so empty without out them will remain with me.

Later in the summer of 2017 Sugarloaf was hit hard by the forest fires that devoted both Sonoma and Nappa Valleys. However Dr Krause has continued his recording campaign and we believe that although the fire has been destructive there may be a rejuvenation and return of species that had been absent over recent years. However it is to early to tell as the issues and dangers posed by forest fires are very real and alarming as global temperatures increase.

 

Winston Churhill Memorial Trust Fellowship

This recording was part of my Fellowship sponsored by the WCMT in April and May of 2017 in the category of science and innovation I set out to explore the emerging field of soundscape ecology and to work alongside Dr Bernie Krause and his organisation Wild Sanctuary. Whilst in the States I undertook expeditions into the wild, through forests, deserts, over mountains, and into deep caves to record the wild soundscape of the south west. It was in these encounters with wildness that have become a lasting a defining element of my Fellowship that I hope to translate even in part through the recordings that I have made whilst in these wild places.

What I found as a result of the Fellowship was compelling and startling and, in the very least, I believe through the lens of soundscape ecology the way we hear the world around us may change forever.

Read the full report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

Mono Lake

It is dusty; the arid wind akin to that of a whip lashes the landscape. Stretching out before me, filling the full range and the scope of the eye, an alien, otherworldly place that seems that it is not quite of this earth, but it is. In contrast with the dry and dust-filled residence, the bright alkaline waters of a vast lake shinning blue as the sun heats the still sheets of water spanning out dominating this world. As if to enforce its sense of otherness, huge white tufa spires thrust through the parched land, forming brilliant towers that, in collaboration with the lake, define the landscape that lies before me. A land that could be misunderstood, a place of stark, fragile beauty, and one filled with life. Missing Wolf Field notes whilst visiting Mono Lake 17th May 2017

Here is a sample of the dusk at Mono Lake as the fading light turned into night. The soundscape of Mono was as alien to me as the landscape with such strange vocalisations emanating from the land that I could only image what kinds of creatures were creating them. The strange and wonderful voice of Mono Lake are very fitting for such a place, a wold unto it’s self.

This recording is a part of my WCMT sponsored Fellowship that I undertook in the Spring 2017. The full report and details of my exploration can be found here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

Recording at Mono Lake

Driving up, down and around sandbanks we finally made it out into a far flung corner of Mono Lake. Sitting around 1 kilometre from the water we set up camp, and my does that fine dust cover everything! I decided to record at different sites around the camp walking out at dusk and at dawn to see what might appear where as I had no idea what to expect. Violet Green Swallows soared criss closing the sky and swiping low in the pursuit of insects. For all the dust and fatigue from the road this was quite a tranquil setting.

In the night whilst we were ambushed by a pack of coyotes who when howling sounded as if they were in the tent with us. It was for me my first experience of their call and to experience at such close range was precious indeed. Needless to say that by the time I had the whits about me to record they had vanished. After many subsequent nights in the deserts of the south west I did finally manage to record coyotes in Nevada’s great basin but there was never another moment such as this first encounter. The aura and presence of the wild at such proximity will remain a visceral memory of the bandits of mono lake.

Winston Churhill Memorial Trust Fellowship

This recording was part of my Fellowship sponsored by the WCMT in April and May of 2017 in the category of science and innovation I set out to explore the emerging field of soundscape ecology and to work alongside Dr Bernie Krause and his organisation Wild Sanctuary. Whilst in the States I undertook expeditions into the wild, through forests, deserts, over mountains, and into deep caves to record the wild soundscape of the south west. It was in these encounters with wildness that have become a lasting a defining element of my Fellowship that I hope to translate even in part through the recordings that I have made whilst in these wild places.

What I found as a result of the Fellowship was compelling and startling and, in the very least, I believe through the lens of soundscape ecology the way we hear the world around us may change forever.

Read the full report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

Death Valley

We have all heard the stories of the geological furnace that lies in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a place of extremes, hot winds and salt playas. Dry and arid, harsh and deadly and one of the hottest places on earth. However Death Valley does have another much older name. The Timbisha Shoshone know their ancestral home land not as Death Valley but as Timbisha. According to their legends it is in Timbisha where man first came from the ground out of coyote’s cradle and into being. Timbisha is place of birth and life and the dawn chorus is defiantly a testament to that.

The dawn chorus may not be overwhelming dense but it is rich with many insects, song birds, humming birds, and doves forming a dynamic and intricate biophony, and one of my favourites.

This recording is a part of my WCMT sponsored Fellowship that I undertook in the Spring 2017. The full report and details of my exploration can be found here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

Recording in the Valley of Life

Death Valley does live up to its reputation with a dry heat that circulates up and down creating the valley causing hot winds, which at times was like standing with a blow dryer pointing directly in your face. This relentless atmosphere can make the area impossible to traverse in the mid day heat and at times even walking a few hundred meters was a challenge as the physical pressure in the body would increase due to swelling of the veins. Apart from the temperature another extreme of Death Valley is that of elevation with ‘Badwater Basin’ being the lowest places in the United States at 282′ (86m) below sea level up to elevations of 14,505 (4,421 m) above sea level. In the spring temperatures where exceeding 115f (46c) in the low points of the valley so we went up in to the mountains. There I found a variety of life that does not befit a place named Death Valley in pockets that are rich and diverse in both flora and fauna. It also worth noting that Death Valley’s aquifers are home to a numerous species of fish that live in its own isolated habit and that can be found no where else on earth. So Timbisha may after all be a more fitting name for many parts of the harsh and unrelenting Death Valley.

Winston Churhill Memorial Trust Fellowship

This recording was part of my Fellowship sponsored by the WCMT in April and May of 2017 in the category of science and innovation I set out to explore the emerging field of soundscape ecology and to work alongside Dr Bernie Krause and his organisation Wild Sanctuary.

Whilst in the States I undertook expeditions into the wild, through forests, deserts, over mountains, and into deep caves to record the wild soundscape of the south west. It was in these encounters with wildness that have become a lasting a defining element of my Fellowship that I hope to translate even in part through the recordings that I have made whilst in these wild places.

What I found as a result of the Fellowship was compelling and startling and, in the very least, I believe through the lens of soundscape ecology the way we hear the world around us may change forever.

Read the full report here:

https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

 

 

North Kaibab Forest

Situated in Arizona, USA, the North Kaibab forest rises out of the desert forming a bastion of fur, pine, and silver birch trees. The forest is home to the Kaibab Squirle, which as the name suggests can only be found within the Kaibab forest. This is a short sample of a recording of the entire dawn chorus from first light through to the early morning sun.

The Kaibab’s  biophony  futures Wood peckers percussively punctuating the  songs of birds and called of the golden mantle squirrels. The geophony of the pine trees bending and swaying in the canopy winds that are passing over head are also a key feature. The biophony and geophony together this create quite a unique soundscape for what an equally unique forest rising out of the Arizona desert.

This recording is a part of my WCMT sponsored Fellowship that I undertook in the Spring 2017. The full report and details of my exploration can be found here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

Recording in the North Kaibab ‘The Island Forest’

Situated ay high altitudes in the Arizona desert the North Kaibab presented a very pleasant break from the harsh desert heat of spring as I traveled through the south western United States in 2017. The weather was clear and cool so easy recording conditions. The change in habitat was also welcome as the biophony and geophony suddenly shifted with many woodland creatures appearing in the soundscape. We set up camp at around 8,000′ (2,438m) in the heart of the forest as far from any forest trail as was possible to find a site that could capture the presence of this forest. For me the wind and woodpeckers define my experience of being up and alert in the North Kaibab at dawn.

Winston Churhill Memorial Trust Fellowship

This recording was part of my Fellowship sponsored by the WCMT in April and May of 2017 in the category of science and innovation I set out to explore the emerging field of soundscape ecology and to work alongside Dr Bernie Krause and his organisation Wild Sanctuary.

Whilst in the States I undertook expeditions into the wild, through forests, deserts, over mountains, and into deep caves to record the wild soundscape of the south west. It was in these encounters with wildness that have become a lasting a defining element of my Fellowship that I hope to translate even in part through the recordings that I have made whilst in these wild places.

What I found as a result of the Fellowship was compelling and startling and, in the very least, I believe through the lens of soundscape ecology the way we hear the world around us may change forever.

Read the full report here:

https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/learning-hear-call-wild-study-soundscape-ecology

 

At The Edge of Greatness

Clear

. but

. Hidden

A world

. complex

vibrant with life

. a complex puddle?

From the puddle to the stream out into the ocean, water is full of life

 

Lake Suttonfield

 

It was thanks to Dr Bernie Kruase that I had my ears opened to the hidden life that can be found with in each puddle, pond, lake, reservoir, river, and ocean.

Droping a hydrophone in the water in all of a sudden an environment full of life being expressed by the vocalizations of many different insect and larvae was revealed.

We may not be aware of the many voices sounding in their own complex sonic habitat. What astounded me was that the different niches that appear in the larger habitats appear in the same way in these microcosms, each puddle forming a space where complex relationships are played about between insects, larvae, amphibians, fish, and more. (see Spectrogram bellow)

I have been astounded once more by the shear beauty and complex nature of our world.

 

 

Rottenberg at Dawn

The mystery of The mountains,

.The dark forests that cover these lands,

.Waking before dawn

.The humans sleep, the chorusing secrets sung.

Creeping, covering a beast flies overhead,

A harbinger of development, of progress, or something else?

.I do not know, but the chorus must keep singing,

.and the chorus must be heard.

 

capturing a dawn chorus, April 2016

Germany, Northern Bavaria, Spessart, Rottenburg.

 

The recording ‘Rottenburg at dawn’ is a five minute excerpt from one of many recordings that taken in the Spessart forests in Unter Franken, Northern Bayern.

This particular excerpt happens to run from the start of one such recording session at 5:00 am. From my first visit to this are I have found the rolling hills, and deep forests, a place of wonder. Each and every time I return I discover more, listening, and observing, as all manner of stories play out in this living landscape.

This recording comes from an area that you may define sonically as a ‘Sonotone’. This is an area where two different ‘Sonotopes’, a ‘Sonotope being the sum of all biophonic, geophonic, and anthrophic sounds in forming a soundscape, overlap. In this case it is the edge of a coniferous forest and a grass meadow.

In my exploration of this area I have found that a lot of vocal activity takes place in these border areas. Add to this the nature of a meadow as an open space, and I had my ideal location to capture the mystical dawn chorus. However this area of Germany is no wilderness. With roads crisscrossing the landscape and the all to present low flying commercial aircraft over head, passing over in an all most constant stream. These elements disrupt the soundscape, intrusions that the much quieter and subtle sounds of the forests, meadow, and farm land bellow are drowned out by. To know how this may be effecting the ecology would take more investigation, however even in our own experience this space is detrimentally effected as the natural, beautiful, and complex dawn chorus is swamped by our noise. For this reason I have decided to included these disruptive anthrophic elements in the recording so as to represent this soundscape as honestly and clearly as I possibly could.

When playing the recordings taken at dawn back to the local people it has been said “I have never been to a place with so many birds”.

The Wilds of South London

As the city stirs from its restless slumber

forgotten inhabitants

alive

thriving

struggling alike

awake they chorus

Before the turning gears there were feathers

Joint voices remind us what we can not afford to forget.

My neighbors in the city

Good morning London- Recording The wilds of South London, Herne Hill, London, 30 March 2016 4:52am

 

As the vast city of London starts to turn its gears a whole section of its population are all ready awake and in full swing. Well I was also quite surprised at the density and variation of birds that formed the dawn chorus in the southern suburbs of London, but then why not? It seems that Cities can be a place of opportunity for so many species of animal, not just the human kind.

Living in the city poses many challenges including the need to adapt to the urban soundscape. As studies have show many birds will shift the pitch of their song to overcome the din of the cities traffic and industry. It is this coexistence which is fascinating, the conflicts and partnerships that are formed in new landscapes of the world such as London.

It is also a sombre reminder that as cities thrive much of our wild and natural soundscape is either lost or threatened, due to climate change, habitat loss, and many other impacts derived from human activities.

It is imperative that we as a species recognise the importance that the ecology of our planet holds.  In a world were the status of the environment can rank incredibly low in our list of priorities the chorusing voices remind me of what we have and what we are losing. London would be much less of a city without such a dawn chorus, just as the world will be if it falls silent.

So we must not let it…

 

Fenghuang an old town on stilts siting by The River

Sitting by the bend in the river,

.an image of peace,

.our ears tell us more.

The old town of Fenghuang alive with sound

.From bird song to machine,

what music that is created

what stories are told?

The sonic tales sitting by the bend in the river.

 

Fenghuang old town, Hunan Province China, February 2015

9:00- 21:00

 

‘Fenghuang, on old town on stilts sitting by The River’ is a collection of recordings taken in the old town of Fenghuang, Hunan Province, China, in February of 2015. I chose each recording on its own merit, however all demonstrate very clear recognisable sonic traits that we attribute to music. The ebb and flow of different sonic entities, the shifting dynamics, and rhythmic events that seemingly come together that one could if listening attentively could hear as organised, just as many do with music. Another important sonic feature within these soundscapes was the conflict between machinery and motor vehicles (anthrophony) that can be heard in direct contention with the songs of birds, and the chorusing insects, (biophony), heard between the human din. Over the water bats swoop and swirl, all manner of insects can be seen but not heard, and the voices of birds find the space to sing their songs.

This string of recordings has the potential to recreate the living space that is Fenghuang, the struggles, the harmony, and the music of this ancient town.

Birds, Frogs, and Fire Works

A journey among giants.

.The great green peaks of Guan Xi

A sight to behold

.A wonder to perceive.

To be present in such a place.

Guan Xi Province China, February 2015

Estuary of the Li River

 

The recording was made in the area around an estuary of the Li River in Guan Xi province China in February 2015. Standing among the green obelisks of the landscape was a dream come true. Listening to the soundscape proved to be just as magical with different sounds emerging around each corner, coupled with the impressive reverberation of sounds bounding from one peak to the next this was truly a wonder to explore.

The first half of this recording was taken 20 meters away from the water around a small rice farm surround by trees. Many exquisite vocalisations from different birds can be heard, many that I had never encountered before. The second half of the recording takes place on the riverbank where a chorus of frogs take to center stage. Distant sounds of the spring festival, Chinese New Year, can be heard as fireworks reverberate like a whip through the space. Far off voices and the sounds of a car horn feature at times throughout, punctuating the reverberant nature of this environment.