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Nature's Symphony

This show is a rebroadcast from March 15, 2012.

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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  • stillin

    I can’t wait for this one. After teaching all day, I really don’t want to hear a human voice. 

  • Gregg Smith

    There’s a pack of coyotes down in the holler. When they get going it’s more of a cacophony than a symphony. Usually this time of year we hear a bobcat working its way down the river. The first time I heard it I literally got in my truck and looked for someone in trouble. The scream they make is bone-chilling.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      There’s two packs that come and go on the property down here, I can relate to the cacophony description. I’ve heard two Bobcats on the backside of the property, I don’t scare easy but when they speak up it is pretty unnerving. The property owner was down several weeks ago and as we sat out by a fire one evening one of the bobcats started up. He freaked out and told me to go grab my shotgun. At first he swore there was an old lady screaming in the back pasture and told me I needed to find out what was going on. I told him it was just a bobcat, I still don’t think he believed me.

      • Gregg Smith

        That’s great, I don’t doubt it for a minute. 

  • leonakl

    An announcement of a preview of today’s show was to be John McFee.  When will he be aired?

    • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

      We did a live show on the fiscal cliff our first hour, preempting the McPhee hour, which was a rebroadcast. On our evening rebroadcasts, it will be the McPhee interview, or you can listen online here: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2010/04/16/john-mcphee-writing

      • leonakl

        Thank you, BUT the file is not found (error 404). Do you think I could get a podcast of it?
        Thanks for responding so quickly.

  • stillin

    Can he recommend an affordable recorder for amateurs? Please ask I would love to get one.

  • DenKayser

    One of the sounds that has always fascinated me, is the sound of the cracking ice shooting across a frozen pond. 

  • rievler

    Anyone know of commercial-free streams of this sort available? I’d be particularly interested in day and night eastern woodland forest and the sound of a burbling brook.

  • http://twitter.com/amycoyote Amy Butler

    I am a teacher and naturalist in northern Vermont, I spend a lot of time outdoors!
    I primarily work with teachers and their students on a weekly basis getting their students outdoors to learn. A foundational piece of my work is teaching and modeling how to listen to all the sounds nature demonstrates in every season.
    I strongly believe that exposing and teaching children to listen deeply and ask questions in nature strengthens biophilia and the cognitive abilities.
    I am always amazed at what children are capable of hearing when given a chance to be still and open all their senses.

    -Amy Butler

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Great Show! Thanks so much for the rebroadcast On Point!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=999945883 Laura Kirk

    If a home for the recordings is still being sought, Macaulay Library might be an option – http://macaulaylibrary.org/


     RALF IN PA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1349209410 Maho Cavalier

    Great show and great story! We share where we live with other life forms. We think that we are the center of everything but animals are living here with us using their own communication tools and living rules. For them, for example an entire forest is their home and for fish or dolphins/whales in the ocean, the entire ocean is their home- but we tend to think that they are invading our space, as shown in the show about beavers.  I appreciate what Bernie has done to show us what the nature living is like. 

    I could not stop crying hearing the beaver. My heart just ached. 

    Thank you for a wonderful story and work.

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