Another Soundwalk

February 29, 2012

Alexis Rodriguez


I just read Justin’s post and his observation of how animals are denoted as being deep listeners brought back my own encounters with various animals. I feel as though it’s common sense that dogs, cats, possums, etc. have a much more sensitive ear than humans. I’ve never truly sat down to think about it, though. It’s always been a knowledge I considered as “just there” such as “grass is green” or “the sky is blue.” We never stop and ask why? I know there have been many occasions where I’m walking home from the library or from work and out of the corner of my eye, I spot a possum or skunk up the road. Every time, as soon as I see the animal, it is already frozen in place looking in my direction. I know this is because it hears me approaching even though I’m two blocks away. If I were unable to see, I wonder if I would even here the animal at all, let alone from that distance.

Why is this? Is it because their ears are more fully developed and have a far greater capacity than human ears? I agree with Justin’s thought that all animals (including humans) are naturally deep listeners in order to survive. Maybe we could hear just as well as animals do but we choose not to. For animals, though, it’s more than just having an exceptional sense of hearing, they can pin point sounds (such as me walking down the street) out of all the other noises surrounding them. Perhaps this is an evolutionary trait in order for them to sustain life in the wild.

The thought of ear adaptation fascinates me. Loud sounds that are frightening to animals (e.g a vacuum or thunder and lightning) are more of an annoyance or even a comfort for humans. We are reared into a world where these sounds are normal and we associate them with non threatening apparatuses. However, our animal-like characteristics come out when we’re walking down the street at night and we hear footsteps in our general vicinity. Much like animals freeze and search for the origin of the sound, we too feel a surge of paranoia until we have identified the creator of the noise as “non-threatening.” Our hearing has become severely desensitized over the billions of years we have existed as a species and I believe it has a lot to do with evolution. Were we as perceptive as animals in the cave man era? Can we train ourselves to get back to that point?

Listening Response

February 29, 2012

Last Saturday night I attempted some field recordings of just whatever I could find.  However, it proved to be a harsh night with brutal temperatures and an unforgiving wind.  So, needless to say, most of what I picked up in my two hours of recording seemed to be just wind.  However, personally I heard a lot more than what I could record.  And I think that the most interesting thing about it is that I think that my style of listening changed because of my environment and the particular conditions of the night.  I think that normally I would say that my world revolves around a “low-def” soundscape, particularly during my school days.  But when put in an element that the mind senses as alarming, I think that my listening becomes more in tune with the “hi-def” and I certainly become more of a deep listener.

I now see why in Deep Listening animals are believed to be deep listeners.  I think that all animals, including humans must be deep listeners in nature to survive.  But since humans are not necessarily participating in the natural, animal world, we have slowly drifted away from deep listening.  However, I think that we have the tool of deep listening if we are caught in an alarming situation.  Take for instance my field recording experience: near zero degrees, wind and snow drifts, and pitch black.  Being excessively cold and damp and not being able to see well made me more attune to my other senses.  And any sound put me on alarm, even though I knew exactly where I was and was recording where I was by choice.

I just thought that it was interesting that my listening deepened due to environmental conditions.

The Muzak Box

February 23, 2012


February 23, 2012

I unfortunately did not get the opportunity to record something myself this week.  However, I did search the internet for some of my favorite sounds.  Among those sounds is the yipping and howling of coyotes, which I’m sure most of us are familiar with.  I live in a very rural part of New York State, so hearing coyotes is a frequent occurence.  SUNY-ESF at Syracuse University has field studies basically in my backyard where they have been researching coyotes through tracking and monitoring, capturing and releasing, video and audio.  unfortunately I could not find any of their videos or recordings.  I did find a fact sheet with audio on National Geographic’s website.

The sounds are pretty awesome, I think.

Male Digger Bees

February 23, 2012

Gregory Whitehead, “Male Digger Bees.” At 2:21:45 in Dan Bodah’s Airborne Event (WFMU).

Arthropod Soundscapes

February 22, 2012

Alan Alda reports on research being done at Hoylab (Cornell U) on arachnid and cricket sounds and fly ears.

Ear for the Sea-Surge

February 22, 2012

“[Water] is the fundamental of the original soundscape and the sound which above all others gives us the most delight in its myriad transformations.” — R. Murray Schafer

Basil Bunting reads a bit of Ezra Pound’s Canto II.

Listening Map-Crossing A Bridge

Justin Recktenwald

A Soundwalk

February 22, 2012

A Soundwalk

Maria Napolitano

Lake Beebe Soundwalk

February 22, 2012

Beebe Soundwalk

Tyran Grillo

Kazoo Choirs

February 19, 2012

Wedge-tailed Shearwaters: birds that sound like kazoos.


February 16, 2012

After our slow walk in class last week, I decided to pay more attention to footsteps I hear when I can’t see the person. During our discussion after the slow walk, I mentioned how it made me feel paranoid because it sounded like the footsteps were coming toward me. Many late nights I walk home from the library alone. Every so often I’ll see someone on my street that late walking home too. Usually I’m listening to my music but the other night I decided to listen to the sounds surrounding me on my journey. I noticed that whenever I heard footsteps, I instantly felt a surge of fear because it sounded like they were coming right toward me. I whipped my head around and as soon as I located the origin of the steps, the sound became a lot less menacing. I also noticed that as soon as I could see the person, the sound seemed a lot further away. This made me think about the correlation between sight and hearing. It reminded me of how when people become blind (or are born blind) one or more of their senses become heightened, for example hearing. Many sight-challenged people have exceptional hearing. Does the same concept apply to a lesser degree when we hear something but the origin is not in our eyesight? What is it that makes sound seem augmented when we cannot see what is making it?

Physiology of the Blessed

February 9, 2012

Agamben’s notion of the paradiscal body and in what form will humans be resurrected in is fascinating. He brings up the Edenic body, “the archetype of uncorrupted human nature,” and how the physiological makeup of the “blessed” could take on this pre-Fall form. He goes on to talk about how once resurrected, human life will have no need for bodily functions because the primary perfection of nature does not exist in the resurrection. Furthermore, animal life will not be allowed into Paradise because they are not blessed.

However, I was not sure as to what the argument was behind the animal life forms inability to be “blessed.” Do we not share those principal functions of nutrition and generation with the animals? Do not they too “eat, drink, sleep, and beget”?

The most intriguing quote that stuck out to me in chapter 6 was “If animal life and human life could be superimposed perfectly, then neither man nor animal — and, perhaps, not even  the divine — would any longer be thinkable.” In my own realm of the imagination, it’s difficult to perceive how man and animal could be superimposed. I feel as though within the human eye, it’s almost impossible to reach so far as to imagine a point where man, animal, and even divine become unthinkable.

Agamben addresses the relation between man and animal from a vantage point I had not completely considered previously. He draws on a passage from Thomas that says, “Yet they (men) needed them (animals) in order to draw from their nature an experimental knowledge.” Man was given the authority to bestow a name upon these animals despite the Biblical fact that animals were created first. The line separating the two seems to be created by man but as Agamben writes, “when the difference vanishes…something appears for which we seem to lack even a name.” Is he foreshadowing his previous statement that if animal and man become superimposed, they both will become unthinkable? Is this inevitable? And what exactly is the experimental knowledge that man draws from animal? Does animal not receive some sort of experimental knowledge from man?


February 9, 2012

I find early mornings to be the easiest time for me to attempt to answer the “Listening Questions” from Deep Listening because there is usually little to no distractions in my apartment, and there is relatively little noise in my head at this time (no side thoughts or daydreaming quite yet).  I was picking and choosing some of the different questions to answer this morning when I saw the question: “what are you listening to right now?”  And until that moment, I really hadn’t been focused on anything.  But then I started to listen for sound in my apartment, but there was nothing out of the usual.  So, I ventured outside and saw an interesting situation develop.  There was a crow perched on top of a carcass of a squirrel.  The crow was moving its head in a skeptical, jerking motion (probably trying to figure out why I was starring at it) and then it would drop it’s head and peck at the flesh of the carcass.  A few weeks ago, I probably would not have paid attention to the sounds that the beak upon flesh produced.  However, since I have been doing these listening exercises, it’s like a whole new world of sound has opened up to me.  What I found to be interesting about the crow eating the squirrel was that there were so many unique sounds:

  • There was a stretching, rubbery sound that the flesh made when the crow pulled upon it.
  • There was a dull, snapping sound when the crow cut a piece off
  • And then there was an interesting juicy, smacking sound that flesh made when moved around in the beak

I hope that this sound experience that I shared was not too gory or grotesque.  But, I found the sounds just very haunting and unique  It was the first time that I ever paid attention to the way a crow eats (or any animal for that matter).  The sounds were truly unforgettable and interesting.  Afterwords I found myself listening to the way I eat and being very critical.  This posed an unanswerable question: “does the crow criticize his own eating noises?”

Painting pushed back another 10,000 years–Homo Neanderthalensis drew seals.

Drumming and Crunching

February 8, 2012

Two listening experiences last Thursday. Upon exiting my apartment, I am greeted by three percussionists in two trees in the backyard, a hairy, a downy, and a pileated woodpecker. Three different time signatures, one session . . .

Later that morning, as I am sitting in Gimme Coffee reading Agamben, a sound behind me makes me involuntarily turn my neck. I stop short of being obvious, so I don’t get a look at what it is. A crunching sound that affects me like a finger on the wrong part of the brain. Some sounds don’t give a physical so much as a mental sensation, an unpleasant pressure whose parameters seem deeply psychological. I finally figure out that the guy behind me is chewing his ice. The funny thing is that if he’d been sitting opposite, I probably wouldn’t have minded. (And I surely have inflicted my own ice chewing on other strangers.) But in that location, coming from where I can’t see it, the sound is almost unbearable.

The ultimate wood listening station. At the “Kraftarena.” (Thanks to mIEKAL aND.)

The Song of a Tree

February 3, 2012

After our discussion about whale songs and how they can and have been interpreted, and our references to the many sounds trees can emit, I thought I’d share this piece of music.  It is essentially the sound produced by a tree’s rings when they are played like a record; the rings have been digitally converted to piano music to produce this song.  We touched on how whale song has been depicted as both soothing and lamenting, depending on the time period, political motivations, and opinions of the listeners.  We as human listeners seem to superimpose our prejudices and perspectives over the whale songs as we interpret them: but how do we make sense of a tree’s song, produced over so many more years, and so much more contaminated by the processes used to convert it to sound from physical growth? The production of song by whales, familiar and intelligent beings, is not all too strange, but can a plant compose as well? Is this music vainly reading meaning out of nothing, or is it a valid attempt to listen to and connect with a formerly inaccessible voice of nature?

Sparking and Booming

February 2, 2012

“The chewink sang before night, and this, as I have before observed, is a very common bird on mountain-tops. It seems to love a cool atmosphere, and sometimes lingers quite late with us. And the wood thrush, indefinitely far or near, a little more distant and unseen, as great poets are. Early in the evening the nighthawks were heard to spark and boom over these bare gray rocks, and such was our serenade at first as we lay on our spruce bed. We were left alone with the nighthawks. These withdrawn bare rocks must be a very suitable place for them to lay their eggs, and their dry and unmusical, yet supramundane and spirit-like, voices and sounds gave fit expression to this rocky mountain solitude. It struck the very key-note of the stern, gray, barren solitude. It was a thrumming of the mountain’s rocky chords; strains from the music of Chaos, such as were heard when the earth was rent and these rocks heaved up. Thus they went sparking and booming, while we were courting the first access of sleep, and I could imagine their dainty limping flight, circling over the kindred rock, with a spot of white quartz in their wings. No sound could be more in harmony with that scenery. Though common below, it seemed peculiarly proper here. But ere long the nighthawks were stilled, and we heard only the sound of our companion’s breathing or of a bug in our spruce roof. I thought I heard once faintly the barking of a dog far down under the mountain, and my companion thought he heard a bullfrog.

A little after 1 A. M., I woke and found that the moon had risen, and heard some little bird near by sing a short strain of welcome to it, somewhat song-sparrow-like. But every sound is a little strange there, as if you were in Labrador. Before dawn the nighthawks commenced their sounds again, and these sounds were as good as a clock to us, telling how the night got on.”

— H.D. Thoreau, Journal entry for June 2, 1858

“There is a sweet wild world which lies along the strain of the wood thrush — the rich intervales which border the stream of its song — more thoroughly genial to my nature than any other.”

— H.D. Thoreau, Journal entry for May 31st, 1850

“These songs are listenings, as poems must listen and sing simultaneously. They are a progression of hearings of Mahler’s ‘Song of the Earth’ on records, in concert, and in my head. In the intervals of the wood thrush singing, and the silence after.”

— Ronald Johnson, on his book, Songs of the Earth (1970)

Of “Interval,” Webster’s 5th meaning (1844 Ed., see link above) is “A tract of low or plain ground between hills, or along the banks of rivers, usually alluvial land enriched by the overflowings of rivers, or by fertilizing deposits of earth from the adjacent hills. Hutchinson. [Dr. Belknap writes this intervale; I think improperly.]”

“Silence is of various depth and fertility, like soil.”

— H.D. Thoreau, Journal entry for January 21st, 1853