Acoustic Ecology?
(Soundscapes, the Environment, and Humans)
It all began when I came across an interview with Gordon Hempton, amidst one of those blissful rabbit-hole podcast excursions. Hempton introduces himself as an acoustic ecologist. I had to pause the interview right there — “acoustic ecology?” What is that? I was amazed in reading its definition as the study of the sonic relationship between humans and their environment. I felt as though I had come across the name for something I had been interested in for a few years — what is going on sonically in our environments, how do we as humans affect soundscapes, and how do the sound waves our bodies consume impact us? Hempton goes on to describe his work to collect natural sounds and advocate for the preservation of natural sonic environments. He makes the point that not many truly natural soundscapes remain, as many become infiltrated by human-made noise.
My interest in the physics of sound, and a change in my awareness of sound had been especially magnified by an audio engineering fundamentals course that I took early on in 2021 at Studio West, San Diego. Suddenly I began to think about all the sound waves we are constantly consuming, whether those waves be within or outside of our audible frequency range. I began to notice the hum of the freeway a mile from my home, the chirp of the birds outside, the hum of my refrigerator, the whirring of my computer fan, the crunching of leaves in my yard… I began to wonder, how are all these sonic stimuli affecting my body, my mind? What would it be like to experience a sonic cleanse? What is the mental and physiological state of the average person living in a calmer, natural sonic environment?
These curiosities and interest in natural sounds have led me to the world of field recording. I am inspired to begin a journey of capturing natural sounds in various environments, and to experiment in weaving those sounds with music. When it rained in early spring in San Diego, I recorded it. When the birds were happily chirping in my garden afterwards, I recorded them. Inspired by the rain, I recorded a simple piano composition. Incorporating these elements, I created a simple song for the rain. Link below 🌧🍃
I’m so excited to continue my exploration of acoustic ecology. My work in data science for the past few years has lived within the context of biology and the biotech world. I’m grateful to have learned so much in my work, and am encouraged to apply my experience to a new type of data. I’d love to combine my interests in sound and music with data science. Wouldn’t it be amazing to quantify soundscape data and analyze it? I think so…
Thanks for reading. To be continued!
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