The Voice of Nature

The recording of sounds is little more than the electronic inscription—either digital or analogue—of sound waves. At first, the process might seem mechanical, but the reality extends far beyond technicalities.

In many instances—the process can, in fact, be the result of an intimate and personal relationship with Mother Nature; a process that preserves the boundless sounds of the Earth based on respect for the land, flora, and fauna. Those who record can follow the rhythms of nature and, through them, become one with their surroundings. This is the case with Peter Ward, pioneer of bird sound recordings, and Sunny Tseng, who spends their time recording owls and other birds. Together, they’re conducting a large-scale acoustic data analysis in the hope of preserving the incredible biodiversity of birds and the ecosystems they belong to.

The idea that sounds can indicate the health of our world emerged years ago with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. In the 1960s, she implored readers to imagine a world made quieter by the “grim specter” of widely used pesticides. “On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices,” she wrote. “There was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.”

Today, the natural spaces we love are facing the devastating transformation Carson predicted 70 years ago: the disappearance of birdsong globally due to climate change. Around three billion birds have disappeared since 1970 due to habitat loss, and human-caused global warming, according to a study by Cornell Lab.

If birds are in trouble—then, it’s likely the rest of the ecosystem is at risk as well. As indicators of nature’s integrity, birds play a crucial role in the natural orchestra of ecosystems, contributing to the overall biodiversity by partaking in food webs, controlling insect populations, dispersing seeds, and helping the regeneration of plant species. This project is an homage to the beauty of birds and an attempt to archive their song before it’s too late.

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