Sounds of the Forest: A Free Audio Archive Gathers the Sounds of Forests from All Over the World

Some of my fond­est mem­o­ries are of hik­ing the Olympic Nation­al For­est in Wash­ing­ton State and the forests of the Shenan­doah Val­ley in Vir­ginia, seek­ing the kind of silence one can only find in busy ecosys­tems full of birds, insects, wood­land crea­tures, rustling leaves, etc. This expe­ri­ence can be trans­for­ma­tive, a full immer­sion in what acoustic ecol­o­gist Gor­don Hemp­ton calls a “nat­ur­al acoustic sys­tem,” the end­less inter­play of calls and respons­es that evolved to har­mo­nize over mil­len­nia.

Trag­i­cal­ly, human noise pol­lu­tion encroach­es on the acoustic space of such refuges, and cli­mate change may irrev­o­ca­bly alter their nature. But they will be pre­served, in dig­i­tal record­ings at least, thanks in part to the efforts of a project called Sounds of the For­est, which has been doc­u­ment­ing the preg­nant silences of forests around the world and has so far col­lect­ed audio files from six con­ti­nents, with west­ern Europe most heav­i­ly rep­re­sent­ed.

The Sounds of the For­est library, acces­si­ble via its inter­ac­tive map or Sound­cloud page, “will form an open source library,” the project announces, “to be used by any­one to lis­ten to and cre­ate from.”

Nature lovers can con­tribute their own record­ings, help­ing to fill in the many remain­ing areas on the map with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion. “Vis­it a wood­land,” the project rec­om­mends, “recharge under the canopy and record your sounds of the for­est.” The site gives spe­cif­ic instruc­tions for how to upload audio file sub­mis­sions.

Sounds of the For­est came out of the annu­al Tim­ber Fes­ti­val, an inter­na­tion­al gath­er­ing in the UK’s Nation­al For­est, which is the “bold­est envi­ron­men­tal­ly-led regen­er­a­tion project: the cre­ation of England’s first new for­est in a thou­sand years… an imag­i­na­tive and ambi­tious state­ment of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.” When the pan­dem­ic scut­tled plans for an in-per­son 2020 Tim­ber Fes­ti­val, orga­niz­ers con­ceived of the sound files as a way to bring the world togeth­er in a vir­tu­al for­est gath­er­ing. They are also for­ag­ing mate­r­i­al for next year’s fest, in which “select­ed artists will be respond­ing to the sounds that are gath­ered, cre­at­ing music, audio, art­work or some­thing else incred­i­ble.”

If you can’t make it to Tim­ber Fes­ti­val 2021 next sum­mer, or to your for­est refuge of choice this autumn, you can still immerse your­self in the restora­tive sounds of forests world­wide. Open the sound map, click on a file, close your eyes, and imag­ine your­self in Nel­son Lakes Nation­al Park in New Zealand, Yasuni Nation­al Park at night in Ecuador, or Chernyaevsky For­est in Rus­sia. Expe­ri­enc­ing the busy silences of nature brings us back to ourselves—or to the ancient parts of our­selves that once also har­mo­nized with the nat­ur­al world.


via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Find Silence in a Noisy World

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Record­ings: World & Clas­si­cal Music, Inter­views, Nature Sounds & More

Free: Down­load the Sub­lime Sights & Sounds of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park

10 Hours of Ambi­ent Arc­tic Sounds Will Help You Relax, Med­i­tate, Study & Sleep

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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