Bernie Krause has traveled from the Antarctic to Zambia to tape the sounds, both quiet and cacophonous, made by creatures of our world. But his collection isn't just a sampling of penguins and zebras; it's an anthology of environments, of every creaking branch or crashing wave one might hear in the woods or on the beach. The field, which Krause helped establish, is now called soundscape ecology. "Studying the sound of one animal is like trying to get the beauty of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony by listening to a single violin," he says. "You need a holistic approach."
Krause’s epiphany came in 1968, when he was a musician working with Warner Brothers Records. "I'd just read Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson and decided to make an ecologically minded album," he says. "I grabbed mics and a stereo recorder and marched into a park just north of San Francisco. When I turned my machine on, I was captivated." After more than a decade of fieldwork, he began creating sonic installations to help museums bring wildlife exhibits to life and developing soundscape education programs with the National Park Service. His archive grew—today it has roughly 5,000 hours of recordings.
The 78-year-old adventurer continues to learn from his eco-library. Its most alarming lesson: the impact humans are having on the environment, including global warming. Says Krause, "More than half my collection comes from habitats that no longer exist." But he isn't giving up hope. "There's a large group of people interested in this field, and they all describe the wild as their place of reverence. We can't lose that."
Photo: Courtesy of Wild Sanctuary
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