Listening to Life… A Soundwalk

Photo by Michael Competielle

Buzzkill

Weekend mornings are a time for extended rest, free from the burdens of weekday life. Our dream sequences allowing us to transcend reality for just a few minutes more. Composed and at ease, we calmly rest.

And then the lawnmowers start, 2 cycle weed-eaters and leaf blowers wreak havoc on my silent lucidity. Environmental noise pollution poisoning my mood and making my heart beat a bit faster.

Certainly, the suburban lawn is one of the least ecologically friendly environments, a biological wasteland. I’ll ask myself how with all good conscience can I partake in helping destroy our environment willingly?

Natures Classroom

Earlier this year my wife and I took a soundwalk through The Watershed Institute, a 1,000-acre watershed reserve. The Watershed staff consists of water and land stewards working to protect our local waters and wildlife habitat.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Armed with my backpack full of field recording gear we headed into the visitors center. Kiosks explained the history of the mission of the Institute. We learned about the impact of water runoff from manicured landscaped yards. The harmful use of herbicides and pesticides and their impact on our waterways. The Watershed recognizes itself as responsible to maintain the ecology of the local landscape and teaches those practices.

As we walked outside feeling informed yet still exploratory, I read on a sign about the Institutes rain gardens that collected the building’s water runoff and how native plants are used in its construction.

Native plants have adapted themselves naturally to survive well in local environments and create a biologically stable habitat for bugs, birds, and bees. Pesticides, herbicides and added fertilizers aren’t required for native plantings to thrive.

The Trail

Putting on my headphones and holding my microphones we began heading down a wooden boardwalk that’s slightly elevated from the boggy land below I could feel the sense of life in the foliage and ground. Frogs, crickets, and bugs were immediately apparent as we headed deeper into the woods.

A smell of rotten eggs wafted towards our noses, evident that this site is biologically diverse.

The raised boardwalk ended and we found ourselves navigated a muddy terrain as we headed deeper into the watershed. Stopping every few hundred feet to observe the sounds of the remote preserve. It didn’t take a highly trained ear to hear the disturbances from near distance noise pollution.

I could hear the sound of a lawnmower trimming some local fields and a distant sound of small aircraft inflight from a local airstrip. I stopped recording as I was saddened how my excursion which felt remote was not far enough away from manmade noise.

I began to think about the animals when they are awakened from their dreams. Forced into fight or flight in an environment they call their home. None essential human-made noises that could easily be avoided if we respected the Earth and nurtured our environment.

It was on that day I learned about the environmental impacts of humans and the ecological effects of manmade noise. It was on that day I began my quest to become… An Audio Ecologist.

Author: mtcwriter

Michael Competielle is a Creative Designer specializing in Sound, Brand and Experiential Design.

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