Thursday, August 23, 2012

It ain't much, but it's home. Soft mossy ground. No bears because they're busy raiding the backyard garbage of all the houses down in town. My biggest worry is falling branches. My experience of camping is all about sound. At dusk, when the sun comes pouring through the trees, it's better than a pink floyd sound and light show, something I've never seen or heard. The insects, which unfortunately I cannot name, create a polyrhythmic symphony and the multi-layered shadows of branches and leaves, some blurry, some in focus, dance all over the walls of the tent.

So then I start thinking, and of course I forget to bring a pen and paper. In the morning, I coast into town, get a coffee, go to the public library, god bless it, and write whatever I can remember....

Every night there's an owl. Coyotes, too, always in the distance. Last year there was a thrush, and I think there might be one this year, too. Lots of different calls, some more punctuated and percussive and others long and melodious.

This is all going to seem amateurish, unkempt, messy.... a way of working through ideas....

If I'm driving along a country road and pass a dog barking, I can hear the barking dog approach and I can hear it pass, maybe even with a little doppler effect thrown in. But if I'm listening to the crickets or cicadas, it sounds like they're not passing at all, it's like they're standing still right by the car, talking to each other. Anyone who's driven with their window open on a summer's evening will have noticed this. It's odd. The rhythmic swelling and receding of the crickets' chorus seems to remain in one place.

In his article "The Niche Hypothesis," (I believe it was written in 1984?) Bernard Krause helps to explain this by showing how, in a natural environment, different species occupy their own discreet frequency ranges, in order to communicate but also for the purposes of masking individual members of a species behind a wall of sound, thereby making them less easy prey.

He goes on to postulate that the advent of human and industrial sounds ("anthrophony"), generally steady state sound, interfered with this natural layering of species frequencies, causing individual members to move outside of their frequency range for the purposes of mating and communication, and thereby making themselves more vulnerable to predation.

This is all based on memory of reading his work, but I think I have the basics right....

I guess for my purposes-- studying the advent of industrial sound in the environment-- this just reinforces the importance of this line of inquiry.... Industrial sounds had a profound effect on the environment, far beyond being a mere "nuisance".  It seems probable that industrial and urban sounds created a new (hitherto unknown in human history) need for "peace and quiet," and therefore was instrumental in the development of new patterns of settlement and movement.