What is a Soundscape?

I was privileged to sit in on a recent science class on soundscape ecology in which Perkins students learned from Purdue University scientists about soundscapes, how to record them, why we might want to record them, and how to analyze the recordings. 

A soundscape recording captures everything that can be heard from a specific location, including nature sounds (Biophony), human-made sounds such as trains, cars, air conditioners, etc. (Anthrophony), and sounds of wind, rain, and other earth-based sounds (Geophony).  Analysis of soundscapes recorded at the same location in different seasons and at different times of day over a long period can yield important information about changes in the environment.


Cardinal singingTrain Rain falling




The folks from Purdue showed us wonderfully sophisticated recording devices, but it is certainly possible to record a soundscape with relatively inexpensive equipment.  Even if you are not interested in scientific analysis, listening to soundscape recordings can be entertaining and fascinating, and just plain fun. 

What you will need:

Pick a day when it is not going to rain, pick a place and time, and start recording.  (One note of caution: Avoid places where you might accidentally record people's private conversations.)  Set the recorder to record for an hour or two.  After making your first recording, find a comfortable spot and a set of headphones, and start listening to what your recorder has captured.  You may be amazed at what you hear!


Collage of Capturing Soundscapes


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