Bernie Krause: The voice of the natural world

Bernie Krause has been recording wild soundscapes — the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae — for 45 years. In that time, he has seen many environments radically altered by humans, sometimes even by practices thought to be environmentally safe. A surprising look at what we can learn through nature’s symphonies, from the grunting of a sea anemone to the sad calls of a beaver in mourning.

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Comment (156)

  1. Not you maybe, but if game wardens – of all people! – are doing it for amusement (really, it boggles the mind), then it clearly needs to be demonstrated as viscerally as possible. Hard to believe, though, wow.

  2. That's true what you're saying. Nature is very adaptive and much is relative. We live in an interdependent world.

    But I don't think we should fall into the trap of self justification when it comes to our influence of global stability and global warming. I see this dynamic of justification with many things in our human history such as the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki in 1945. (Like maybe radioactivity and mass death was good in the long run)

    I appreciate your thoughts, take care. Namaste.

  3. It would be interesting to see this type of technique used for urban or human habitats. Would we be able to 'hear' differences when political atmosphere change? or when a critical even happens in news or some other media? If we can use this to determine the fitness of 'wild' habitats, why not our own?

  4. I have absolutely NO idea why this comment 'has received too many negative votes'?! when it is the absolute truth. I can only assume the audience for this particular talk had no idea as to what it would be about or were confused.

    As to the TOP comment, yes humans are nature too, it's just such a shame that we are the only species going around wantonly destroying it.

  5. Thanks, agreed. I think most people have become overly domesticated in their own homes. For some just the very thought of camping out is such a big ordeal. People can't get away from their air conditioning, their big screen TVs or their cell phones. It is pretty sad considering people of greater character survive without such luxuries. It is materialism to the extreme. Reconnecting with nature is truly reconnecting with one's true self. Btw a monotheistic "God" is a delusion born from propaganda

  6. Air conditioning, readily-available food and medicine, and other things we think of as luxuries have allowed humans to expand their life spans far beyond what was possible even a century ago.

    I don't think human society is just 'different' from nature. When constructed responsibly with respect for the natural world, it's better.

  7. Well thanks for that. Nice to see some intelligent responses on here for a change.

    BTW, the word 'God' far too easily tossed around and dislike the term. However, being a fan of quantum theory, like this 'God' is a concept, an idea, an unintelligible sphere known to the mind whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere, and the centre is right where you're sitting, and each of us is a manifestation of that mystery.

  8. No, he's not: when you define a concept in such a broad manner it looses its meaning completely. Distinctions cease to have meaning… it's a badly used reductio ad absurdum. I believe such reductions where one of the basis of Newspeak in Orwell's "1984".

  9. He's not. Check out the dictionary definition I included:
    1. the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.
    2. the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.
    3. the elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.
    4. natural scenery.
    5. the universe, with all its phenomena.

  10. Alright. Alright. I suppose I wasn't being 100% literal.
    What I was implying is that it's interesting to think that all the human accomplishments are a product of just an animal that happens to be intelligent, and the animal is a product of nature.
    In this sense, everything seems to be natural.
    Now if you're talking dictionary definitions, that's a different matter.

  11. Hi Bernie! Was touched by the mourning beaver so I had to share this! While walking around Columbia University in NYC some years ago, we saw a crow had been hit by a car and killed, and it's flock, consisting of three crows, were up in the trees making a sound we had never heard from crows before! A moaning sound! My wife and I agreed that they were mourning the death of their comrade. We firmly believe that animals have emotions irregardless of biologists!

  12. Want to hear a sad beaver story than listen to Techno Beaver @robertAbooey throw out the 1st pitch or his love tape to win back an x-girlfriend! Other wise you can listen to a Sea Anemone choke on a micro phone and barf it up out of a tide pool! Now lets all go out and stick are micro phones in the oddest of places and post them on youtube or soundcloud that is where you will find me "itscrazytrevor on soundcloud"

  13. @ 10:50 … A most haunting, poignant story and sound one might ever hear… the utterly heartbreaking cries of an inconsolable, beaver father.

    Quote from Bernie Krause regarding the loss of wilderness and the wild creatures:

    "A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening. Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence."

  14. listening to Bernie Krause makes me very very sad since it shows me what we have lost in our human greed to expand, build, rule and dominate. Yet, it is the reality of our world. One day , people will flock to museums – or to internet web pages – to hear true nature's sounds. Mr. Krause is not only a nature lover but also a philosopher and ethnologist, who in his work elaborates on how we – in the industrialized countries – have lost the appreciation of the auditory sense, as visual perception dominates.
    Tragically, in 2017 a large amount of his archived material together with his equipment got lost in a wildfire in California.

  15. Thank you, Bernie. The call of the bereaved beaver was indeed heat-breaking.
    For me, the most poignant sound I ever heard was of rhino that had ben attacked and its horn removed with a machete.
    For days it had been suffering, and its cry haunts me still.
    Thank you.

  16. Critical information/science in preserving our rural spaces . . . this work is so important to what's going on right in Bernie's backyard . . . I would love to see him present at some of the meetings I've attended where the supervisors and Fish and Game are making decisions about oyster farming, mono-culture and other critical decisions that will effect our Sonoma County landscape now and into the future . . . his story about the destroyed beaver dam was absolutely heart-wrenching . . .

  17. that's such a deep talk reminding me a perspective that was ignored to understand the beautiful world I am so priviledged to live in. The talk is really underrated….

  18. When I was a kid, a family of deer walked in front of the car in our neighborhood so we stopped. The deer walked by except for one baby. A sports car speeded through 30 miles over the speed limit and flipped the baby in the air! It landed and broke all 4 of it's knees. It tried to run on it's knees but it couldn't. We called the police who "took care of it"-whatever that means… During the impact, the mother deer made a sound ten times more sad than that beaver… That was the only time in my life I heard a deer make a noise… and it was a scream…

  19. I cried for the first time today after my father died in 2003. The sentence: "Fully 50% of my archive comes from habitats so radically altered that they are either altogether silent or could no longer be heard in any of their original form" moved me to tears!

  20. I've only just today discovered that your work even exists. But I can already see the enormous value of this. I think what you are doing is not only wonderful – but vital, for our understanding of human impact upon the environment. Please. Keep up the good work.

  21. The guy puts a natural ‘hip’ in hop. Might as well call him Bernie KRS-1 … representing Beaver Down Productions! ‘BDP, peace and unity!’

    Catching the thunder since the 1970s – quite literally a Grandmaster Flash. He was writing (Kool-as-G) ‘wrap’ instrumentals in 1988
    and his Jungle Shoes preceded the genre of UK jungle music by at least 3 years

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  23. Our ancestors already knew this, why everything is alive. The Creator speaks through in everything. Ty for sharing the story of the Amish (beaver)- Why we say all my relations. Miig wetch

  24. We tend to be so visual as a species but sound is a much more profound experience so yes we need more of this way of communicating about the real world (as opposed to man-made) of which we are all part .

  25. This is an extremely important topic. We ALL should be aware of the sounds of nature…. and the sound of silence. Silence is a precursor to the DOOM of ALL OF US.


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