When musician Bernie Krause was a little boy in Detroit he suffered from astigmatism, so that much of his early sensory stimulation was aural. By the age of five he was studying the violin and composition, then he took up the guitar. But in 1955 the examiners at his music school informed him that the guitar is ‘not a musical instrument’. He went on to join the folk group the Weavers (who were responsible for introducing ‘Guantanamera’ to the American public, a fact some might choose to expunge from their CV), switched to synthesisers (working with The Doors and in the film industry) and then at the age of forty began devoting himself instead to recording the soundscapes of the natural world. This rather remarkable book seeks to explain the value of his researches, and to investigate the relationship between human noise-making and the environment.
When he began his research, recording techniques were unsophisticated, and naturalists tended to concentrate on individual species. Krause pioneered the idea of ‘whole-habitat recordings’, which capture the ‘acoustic signature’ of an entire location. Beginning with ‘geophony’ (non-biological sounds), he was introduced by various Native Americans to the wind among the