The entire universe is built on vibration. From these atomic vibrations, which oscillate into universal undulations, sound takes it shape. Whether organized by human or synchronous serendipity, when a beautiful form of sonic waves flows into our ears, we call this music.
Music as an artform loosens boundaries and enhances interconnection, much like ecology weaves and interlocks millions of species within the biosphere. Our interdependence upon other organisms—from plants for food, insects as pollinators, and countless bacteria that form our intestinal flora, to focus on our nonhuman relation through food and digestion—is easily forgotten in a world increasingly paved over and digitized into virtual bits and sound bites.
I compose soundscapes in order to explore the relationship between human music and nature, and reveal the liminal space wherein birds and frogs of the Amazon jungle become melodious and perhaps even transformative to those who would listen. The “modern day acoustic smog,” as Selhub and Logan phrase it in their book Your Brain on Nature, decreases cognitive abilities, promotes insomnia, raises the level of stress hormones, gives rise to anxiety and depression, and can even decrease our lifespan. Alternatively, listening to creek sounds changes the blood flow in our brains, promoting relaxation, while bird sounds decrease fatigue and lifts our mood.
Jon Young elaborates, “If we learn to read the birds—and their behaviors and vocalizations—through them, we can read the world at large” (from What the Robin Knows). His proposal is to find a sit spot, a place in nature or even our backyards, that we return to every day, and through (our) silence and (environmental) sound, we can once again hear the natural music of the world. Similarly, Bernie Krause “learned to listen by sitting quietly for long periods of time in natural, quiet places and trying to hear as non-humans might” (from his article, “Where the Sounds Live”). Stillness is a critical step in building a sonic relationship with nature.
“Sound is the vocabulary of nature,” states Hodgkinson, while Westerkamp adds that “through listening we get an impression of the world into which we are born, and with soundmaking we express our needs and emotions.” By using sound recordings as my vocabulary, the creation of these soundscapes fulfilled an expressive need of sharing the Amazonian wonder through sound. In this sharing, I hope to strengthen the bonds between human and environment, and rekindle our perception of earthly harmonics.