Featured Project: Mapping a Bornean Soundscape

Zen Faulkes

When was the last time you were away from a city, a highway, or other trappings of human civilization? If you haven’t been lucky enough to do that lately, one of the best things about it is to just listen.

No engines or motors. No electrical humming. No banal conversations.

It might not be quiet, but it’s a completely different sound space.

When I watch the video for Alison Styring’s project, I get jealous. She gets to record such wonderful sounds, so different from the day to day noises that are inseparable from daily life for so many of us.

Scientifically, this project is concerned with documenting pristine rainforest habitat. Sometimes, the sounds coming out of a forest can show the health better than the sights coming from the forest. Bernie Krause has said:

I always tell my students, you know, a picture is worth 1,000 words but a soundscape is worth 1,000 pictures.

I’m intrigued by the prospect of how closely sounds can be mapped to locations with new mapping tools. I can just imagine being able to take an online tour through rainforest, listening to sound samples along the way, listening to how they change as you move throughout the rainforest.

This project has some of the cooler donation gifts: sound recordings of the rainforest. Many people like “ambient sound” CDs and the like for meditation or quiet time. How cool would it be to have your own, knowing where it was from, and also knowing it was for science? Wouldn’t that be sooooo relaxing?

For more on soundscapes, check out this feature on Bernie Krause.