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The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  268 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause is one of the world's leading experts in natural sound, and he's spent his life discovering and recording nature's rich chorus. Searching far beyond our modern world's honking horns and buzzing machinery, he has sought out the truly wild places that remain, where natural soundscapes exist virtually unchanged from when the earliest huma ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 19th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,171)
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Dec 16, 2012 Paula rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Quite interesting, although a bit repetitious, when discussing soundscapes (geophony, biophony, anthrophony) & the bioacoustic recordings & logs that the author has made over the past 40 years. This is Krause's area of expertise & he elucidates it well. The book is less compelling when the author extrapolates from his experience & data to make assessments and broad judgements about wildness & nature in relation to homo sapiens. For example, he talks about a wild pre-modern Am ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it
There are some fantastic ideas in this that I hadn’t really thought about. One is considering the health of an ecosystem by measuring sound of its biophony (the intricate niches and layers of sound/song emitted by life in an ecosystem) at different intervals before and after a disruption. Another was considering how life forms shape the sounds they make to fit niches within the whole of the biophony, and how the niches and sounds evolve when a system is disrupted. As someone who has been obsessi ...more
May 30, 2012 jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, nature
bernie krause's the great animal orchestra offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of bioacoustics, soundscapes, and the evolution of music. krause, a naturalist and recording artist (he was formerly a member of the weavers and is noted for his pioneering and influential work with synthesizers and in film), developed his niche hypothesis to describe the unique "sound signatures" made up of varying non-human animal voices that define a particular time and place (which may shift in response to ...more
May 27, 2012 amy rated it it was ok
Neat idea.

The main idea is that animals in any given given ecosystem have evolved to speak at different frequencies: "All god's creatures got a place in the choir... Some sing low, some sing higher..."

The author gives evidence that sonograms can/should be used to monitor habitats that have been logged. The "soundscape" shows differences that won't otherwise be seen. Habitats that have been disturbed show more chaotic vocalizations -- with more frequency overlap for the critters. Presumably this
May 11, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, nonfiction
I really enjoyed this one -- Krause's perceptiveness and poetic words are both beautiful. I have clearly not given enough thought to the sound environment around me, and the sonograms illustrating the impacts of human noise on ecosystem soundscapes are genuinely frightening. Thanks to Krause, I'm so much more aware of the sounds around me, and realizing how it really is impossible to get away from human sounds, at any time or place.

I admit I skimmed a lot of the sections on music origins (far t
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jun 24, 2013 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is a weird one! I picked this up thinking it to be of more of a scientific nature but found it instead to be more poetry and the lamenting of a heart for the sounds lost to us from the death of species. It was in some ways very moving. I loved his very lyrical wordy style. I found it captivating, like a piece of music. There isn't much to this in way of science, howver it is a wonderful view into the mind of someone who does hear likely as much as he sees with his eyes if not more. Totally ...more
Nayla Mehdi
Feb 16, 2015 Nayla Mehdi rated it really liked it
I support any book that brings about awareness of the newly emerging field of soundscape ecology. Soundscape ecology is different than that of acoustic ecology, the latter being more human-centric and the former focusing on wild life. Through his experiences, Bernie Krause talks us through how sound is used toward learning about the health of ecosystems. Krause explains that through acoustic monitoring, we can gain better knowledge of ecosystem dynamics and acoustic diversity, helping us improve ...more
Nike Sulway
What I enjoyed:
- Being exposed to the idea of the biophony (noise produced by the natural world) and the anthrophony (noise produced by human civilisation, especially technology).
- Learning that in a biosphere, animals vocalise in such a way that their sounds complement each other. That is, they occupy different registers and time signatures, and are aware of and respond to changes in the collaborative aural make-up of their habitat
- Though a bit wishy-washy in terms of argument (more gestural a
David R.
Apr 24, 2012 David R. rated it did not like it
This one started with an intriguing premise, but goes downhill pretty quickly. There are a disturbing number of unsupported claims, and what documentation that exists is suspect to say the least. I'd skip pass this one by.
Nov 19, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
I was glad to find that this book isn't a poetic interpretation of the animal kingdom as an orchestra. The metaphor is much more thoughtful and scientific than that. Krause shows us that the biophony of the world, or collection of animal sound, is the result of a grand evolutionary web in which every creature has developed an acoustic niche - a pitch, tempo, and time interval that allows it to be heard over its habitat. The black-and-white images of the author's recordings exhibit this beautiful ...more
Annette Jordan
May 18, 2016 Annette Jordan rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
Although this book had some interesting and disturbing ideas about our disappearing natural land and soundscapes , some of which really shocked me, I found it rather a dull read and somewhat repetitive. There seemed to be an excessive amount of jargon that interrupted the smooth flow of the writing. The book was well structured with an introduction explaining the basic concepts, several chapters devoted to different aspects of the natural soundscape such as geological, metereological and zoologi ...more
Jun 26, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly life-changing, but the soundscapes were nice to listen to
Paul Rack
Feb 25, 2016 Paul Rack rated it liked it
Very good book showing how music is rooted in natural sounds, and how human-generated sound is harming the environment and our own health. Paying attention to soundscapes helps us determine the health of ecosystems. Many are under attack. Some seem to think that our noise is an expression of our legitimate power. Or that loud motorcycles or snowmobiles are an expression of "freedom." Which is idiotic. Without a healthy planet none of us is free. This book got me paying attention to natural sound ...more
Bernie Krause, Ph.D. (bioacoustics), is arguably the preeminent recordist and archivist of habitat sounds in nature (he estimates 4,000 hours from 1,500 locales worldwide documenting 15,000 species) and this book, with accompanying free audio, is another of his persuasive testimonies to the vitality of aural communications among all living beings.

This book is much more than its title suggests. It is about the relatively unsung importance of the intricate web of pan-biological communication. It i
Mar 27, 2012 Jacki rated it liked it
*Check out for other reviews and sundry thoughts!*

At a young age, Bernie Krause (Wild Soundscapes) became fascinated with the array of natural sounds filtering through the walls of his family's house. He grew up to become both a musician and a naturalist, making a career out of recording natural sounds since the late 1970s; he was one of the first naturalists to record entire natural soundscapes rather than individual species.

In The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause det
May 01, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Krause has dedicated much of his life to recording the soundscapes of remote, wild places such as northern tundras, tropical rainforests, and desert plains. In The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause conveys what he has learned about the natural world and human music through his career. His discussions of the soundscapes of the natural world are fascinating, and bring to light something most people never truly contemplate or experience. The sound world created by animals, insects, and even fish are r ...more
Man. I tried with this one. I'm leaving it at about halfway through, and it doesn't please me to say so. The information is totally five-stars. The research Krause has conducted around natural sounds and human-made music is downright fascinating - it's just sort of, um, dry. I haven't yet gotten to a "hook" that kept me reading forward. In fact, I'm leaving off pretty much right before he begins (I think) to describe the way human sounds/music relate to those in nature. I'm sure when I come back ...more
Max Carmichael
Aug 29, 2012 Max Carmichael rated it liked it
A frustrating book for me, but one I will recommend to my scientist friends. To begin with, the title is misleading: the author is apparently neither qualified nor motivated to find the origins of music, but what he does reveal is that natural soundscapes have been overlooked by science and society as a diagnostic for habitat degradation and a source of inspiration and therapy for our abused senses. There's a vast domain of information around us that few have learned to perceive.

The topic is rev
Apr 30, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
Krause is a musician and naturalist who has spent over four thousand hours recording wild soundscapes. Since the time of his recordings, about half of these habitats and their unique blend of sounds have been considerably altered or destroyed due to the extinction of fauna and flora, environmental changes, and human-made noise pollution. Krause's passion shows, but the execution of ideas is occasionally dulled by dry, textbook-y, and sometimes repetitious writing. I was also left curious about K ...more
Rick Bavera
Mar 26, 2012 Rick Bavera rated it really liked it
This is a review of a Goodreads First Reads book.

Even though I grew up during the 1960s, and even though the author, Bernie Krause writes of working in music during that time period, his is not a name with which I am familiar.

I was not sure I would enjoy the book, as it initially I thought like it might have something of a textbook feel to it. And in some ways, maybe it does. Krause speaks of the origins of our music in the natural world. He speaks of soundscapes (the audio equivalent of lands
Sep 25, 2013 Lionel rated it it was amazing
Wow, what an incredible exploration of the natural work through it's sounds. The first chapter is so compelling that I've read it out loud to friends on multiple occasions. For 40 years Bernie has been going into nature where places can be found without human noise (very hard to find now) and setting up a microphone and recording equipment to hear and capture the natural sounds. He listens to the sounds generated by birds, insects, mammals, wind and other natural phenomena and he calls this tota ...more

I set up my laptop and place a Shure SM-57 microphone on the edge of one of the mesh seats of the aluminum chairs on the back deck of my house in Philadelphia. The neighborhood I live in with my family is densely populated, but suburban in its layout. Most streets are residential. There’s a strip of businesses struggling to stay open on the main thoroughfare – a hearing aid store, a shoe repair shop, a few dollar stores, an antique kitchen appliance seller
Elisabeth Rose
Nov 03, 2013 Elisabeth Rose rated it it was amazing
I read this book twice and drew heavily from it on a lecture on the musicality of language at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. It comes as an audiobook that plays the audio that it references. I believe that's the way it's meant to be experienced, and I must get myself that version (or put it in my letter to Santa). The book struck me as well investigated and profoundly valid argument about a sphere of Earth we rarely consider, yet one that affects the well being of hu ...more
Mikael Lind
Feb 06, 2013 Mikael Lind rated it liked it
I wanted to give this book four stars. The message in it is a very important one: don't mess with the environment or it is going to have consequences. Also, he makes some interesting ties between animal sounds and the origin of human music. Unfortunately, I felt that many of Krause's anecdotes were not so exciting; some where relevant, for sure, but sometimes he could have focused on the science behind his book instead. Yes, the science. He cites different authors, quotes them and makes some int ...more
Elizabeth Adams
Dec 18, 2012 Elizabeth Adams rated it liked it
While I found some of Krause's observations interesting, his conclusions didn't seem particularly original or surprising to me, as a person who's spent a lot of time outdoors listening to the sounds of nature. I guess I had hoped the book would speak more about how aboriginal peoples developed particular instruments from the sounds that surrounded them, or how human song reflects bird and animal song, but this wasn't what he was writing about. I felt there was too much ego and too much emphasis ...more
Kallen Kentner
Sep 09, 2012 Kallen Kentner rated it really liked it
Read the complete review of the Great Animal Orchestra on

Although subtitled “Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places,” the book stretches far beyond this niche theory and looks compellingly on what natural soundscapes can tell us about ecosystem health, human interference and other topics.

Krause’s book spotlights the need for further research and brings attention to an often-overlooked aspect of the natural world.

Read more biology-themed science book reviews.
Nov 27, 2012 Melanie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting read -- looking at the soundscapes in wild places and thinking about how natural sounds led humans to create music and how modern human noise changes those soundscapes is certainly worth introspection. There are beautiful descriptions of environments Krause has visited and the scientific discussion of bioacoustics is cogent. However, I found aspects of this book to be a bit overly new age preachy since humans are a part of the environment too. Certainly, we can do better about tre ...more
Phoenix Carvelli
Apr 05, 2012 Phoenix Carvelli rated it it was amazing
Review copy won on on 2-29-12. Received 3-7-12.

This is a very interesting book and very informative. The ability to go to so many locations around the world to record nature sounds is incredible. What an awesome job! least until the part about being able to hear very clearly that he was being tracked!

Just as we are unable to see the majority of the stars in the night sky due to man made illumination, we are losing the ability to hear nature sounds due to man's advances. T
Apr 27, 2012 Anna rated it did not like it
Shelves: audio
Bernie Krause writes about sound and noise. Sounds from the land and weather (geophony) - rain, waves, wind etc and sounds from animals (biophony). He also writes about noise, the sounds made by humans - restaurants that are too loud, planes overhead. I don't know if it was interesting or not. The author reads the book himself and he adds in lots of sound clips. It should have been a cool book. But he's a boring narrator and so it is hard to pay attention. A little bit of drama when being tossed ...more
Tim Ackerman
Dec 03, 2013 Tim Ackerman rated it it was ok
As one who is quite interested in the origins of music, I'd have to class this book as a disappointment. The author is an expert "sound man" who has meticulously recorded many "biomes" or natural soundscapes from the tropics to the Arctic circle.
While the combined use of text and recording makes for a fascinating multi-media presentation, the fascination wears thin when it becomes clear that Mr. Krause has very little to say regarding "the origins of music" aside from considering the very exist
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Dr. Bernie Krause is both a musician and a naturalist. During the 1950s and 60s, he devoted himself to music and replaced Pete Seeger as the guitarist for The Weavers. For over 40 years, Krause has traveled the world recording and archiving the soundsof creatures and environments large and small. He has recorded over 15,000 species. He lives in California.
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