Nature’s Symphony

Nature speaks. We’ll hear a symphony of natural sound. Growls and gurgles, wind and water, wolf and jaguar, glaciers on the move.

Howling wolf. (numbphoto/Flickr)

Howling wolf. (numbphoto/Flickr)

Way back in his career, natural sound legend Bernie Krause was all about electronic music and human performers:  The Doors, Van Morrison, Mick Jagger.  Then Bernie Krause went over to the wild side.  To nature’s own symphony.

He took his world-class recording chops into jungle and tundra, rain forest and ocean swell.  To the sound of glaciers moving, jaguars growling, beavers crying, wolves, vultures, orcas, snow.  His collection is incredible.  He’s with us, with all that sound.

This hour, On Point:  nature’s symphony.

-Tom Ashbrook


Bernie Krause, author of The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places.

From Tom’s Reading List

SF Weekly “Former musician Bernie Krause has spent 30 years recording the pristine sounds of nature in the remotest corners of the world. Now, after all his travels, he has an important message for the human race: Shut up!”

New York Times “If you saw Bernie Krause, a sotto voce man with heavy, nearsighted eyes, seated amid the baffling array of high-tech sound-engineering gear in his Glen Ellen, Calif., studio, you might never guess that he was once flung down a Rwandan mountainside by a mountain gorilla. Or that he forced himself to sit coolly still in the stultifying blackness of an Amazon jungle night while a prowling jaguar mouthed a microphone he had set up only 30 feet down the trail.”

Christian Science Monitor “Dr. Krause, who has spent the past 40 years collecting sounds from around the globe, explains that the clicks, chirps, and howling ethereal decrescendos are indeed from this planet: They’re made by Weddell seals inhabiting the frozen continent’s McMurdo Sound.”

Video: The Sounds Of Nature

Check out this video from Bernie Krause, as he records the sounds of purring jaguars, snapping shrimp, and cracking glaciers.

Video: Sounds of a Tree

Here Krause explains how he recorded audio signals emitting from the trunk of a cottonwood tree while trying to record bat emissions.

Excerpt: The Great Animal Orchestra

[Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.]


Desert Solitudes

In the spring of 1992 Bernie went to Gray Ranch in the panhandle of New Mexico. The wildlife includes cactus and rock wrens, western meadowlarks, sparrows, green-tailed towhees, blue grosbeaks, ash-throated flycatchers, coyotes, gray foxes, red-tailed hawks, toads, frogs, tortoises and snakes.

Big Sur Pacific

A recording from Big Sur, along the California coast, a few hours South of San Francisco. Bernie recorded this at Pfeiffer Beach, on Christmas morning in 1990.

Chernobyl Dawn

The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986 left a deep silence on the site. But within a few years wildlife returned. Here, the sound from spring 2006. Wolves, moose, white-tailed eagles, and black storks have moved back to the site. The area is also famous for its frogs and nightingales.

Early Soundscape

Here at early dawn at a site located in the Adirondacks, the soundscape of peepers, insects, various birds, and a woodpecker.

Insect Larvae (LOOPED)

Here, a 1986 recording at Mono Lake in California, on a spring day in a vernal pool that had just melted. You can hear the sound of insect larvae and water boatmen.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

In late spring, 2006, Bernie led three teams to record the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in the Northeastern corner of Alaska. At Timber Lake, he caught the sound of Tree sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, savannah sparrows, American robins, Hoary redpols, lesser yellowlegs and upland sandpipers.

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