T.'s Reviews > The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places

The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause
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's review
Apr 08, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science, nature-ecology, music, language, health, culture, economics, history

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 is also about how human activities—much of it the effects of political and economic "progress" (particularly since the autumn of the 20th century)—have intruded on, overshadowed, distressed and in too many cases progressively eliminated soundscapes of our shared natural environments—and why soundscapes are absolutely essential indicators of the health of all beings on the planet.

While that may seem to the uninitiated as overblown on the surface, I find what Bernie Krause endeavors to explain here and throughout the arc of all his works is not only our musical origins in the vibrant ecological soundscape (biophanies) of the natural world. More critically, he examines and demonstrates to us the wondrous acoustic communication mechanisms throughout the natural world and their practical, very real impact on a functional planet.

What has already been lost? What we are still in danger of losing? Why does it matter to the future of the planet?

I am reminded in “The Great Animal Orchestra” that the loss of habitat is not only evident and defined by loss of wildlife populations, reduction of public green spaces, parklands or wilderness, or in less tangible quality-of-life concerns that are reflected in urban encroachment but also by the intrusive sounds that our contemporary standards of living have imposed on all other living creatures to our mutual detriment.

In this book we see the fundamental costs of endangered and lost natural habitats from the perspective of understanding how the incessant production of man-made noises interfere with animal and environmental sound as an essential tool of communication among and within those habitats. Krause tells us that such interference comes at the cost of nature’s creatures not only losing their ability to function communally as individual species but also to avoid the over-predation of species.

Soundscape recordings caught my interest in the early '80s; then I discovered (Paul) Beaver & Krause's 1970 hybrid musical-environmental explorations "In a Wild Sanctuary” (via “Walking Green Algae Blues”), and went on to hear Krause’s own soundscape recordings and to read one of his other texts,
Into a Wild Sanctuary: A Life in Music and Natural Sound.
His dedication to the power of sound and contributions to its deeper biospheric impact constitute important documents in this realm. Reading this reminded me of “The World Without Us” and I also see it as a likely companion to E.O. Wilson’s “The Social Conquest of Earth”.

Listen to “The Great Animal Orchestra”’s companion series of soundscape samples -- earth, air, fire, water-- on your mobile device, available at Amazon.* If you have never heard a musician wren before (as I had not) I believe that you will be more than warmly surprised and enchanted; you will find reason enough to contemplate the loss of any animal species due to human interference as a sacrilege.

*Amazon has free content available even if you don't own a Kindle.*
• Download the free Kindle app for your mobile device at http://amzn.to/vphdCi;
• "Order" the audio with an Amazon account; 
• When you receive email confirmation, click on the order number, which takes you to the Amazon site; 
• Look for the box "Manage Your Digital Items" and click on "Kindle"; 
• The next page will be "Your Kindle Library" where you can select the "Action" for "Deliver to my..." and then select "Kindle Cloud Reader". 
• The next time to open the app on your device the audio will download for you to read the book supplement and listen to the audio.

Studio 360 featured interviews
Going Wild with Bernie Krause (emusician)

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