The Beauty of Our Soundscape May Not Last Forever

“The general acoustic environment of a society can be read as an indicator of social conditions which produce it and may tell us much about the trending and evolution of that society” (Schafer, 7). As the acoustics of our environment change, it is clear that our society is trending towards destruction of the natural Earth. Because of our relentless extraction and depletion of the Earth’s resources, we are forcing landscapes and our environments to change in ways that have the potential to damage life beyond repair. The acoustic environment around us, may never be the same either. As Schafer puts it in The Tuning of the World, there may be no earwitnesses left who have borne witness to the sounds of nature untouched by humankind. Further, the powerful sounds of wind, water, forests and more result in a world that is distinctly impoverished (Shafer, 10). This is a convincing sentiment, but one that almost seems like a privileged thought when compared to the myriad of maladies climate change has and will cause.

Shafer’s discussion of the power of soundscapes bears similarity to, but also stark contrast, to that of Krause’s awe and fascination. As she puts it in chapter 2 of her book, The Great Animal Orchestra, the world is “abounding with life.” Krause discusses the animals of nature, “performing their unified chorus as they have each day and night since the beginning” (Krause, 11). Cynically, I can not help but think, ‘not for long.’ I could not help but grow saddened as Krause describes the inherent value found in wild sounds and how integral they are to life. If we aren’t careful, we might never understand this information before it’s gone. I think for too long, we have been hearing without truly listening. We can stand in awe of the power and beauty of the music of nature, yet we do nothing to understand, nor preserve.

A Small Tangent: while I deeply agree with the significance of wild sounds, I think some thought on this topic must be given for those who are deaf. This argument for the value of the sounds of nature is strong, to be sure, but how the value is imparted unto others should not be weighted the same. I do not think I have the tools to discuss this concept in full, but I wanted to bring awareness to a concept that I think is important.

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