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Jun. 21, 2012

Tune in to the Biophony

by Annette Heist

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In his new book, The Great Animal Orchestra, musician, naturalist, and Science Friday guest Bernie Krause makes the argument that music--as we humans know it--originated in the sounds and rhythms of the natural world. And acoustically speaking, what a world it is.
 
From the tiny but powerful snapping shrimp (pound-for-pound one of the loudest creatures on Earth), to the squeaks of growing corn, Krauss documents what he calls the “biophony”—the sounds of living organisms. Within that biophony, Krause says, thousands of creatures “living and singing in one habitat to survive…need to find what we call 'bandwith' or 'niches'"– spots on the spectrum where their voices can be heard. From this animal acoustic organization, Krauss argues, our ancestors were inspired to create the musical idea of complimentary voices.
 
Part autobiography, part treatise, part impassioned plea to pay attention to the sounds of nature, Krause’s book will make you want to take off the headphones, step outside, and just listen.   
 
(Here's an audio clip of snapping shrimp, courtesy of Bernie Krause, who adds: "Recorded at Moss Landing, California, in Elkhorn Slough. You can also hear occasional California sea lion breaths underwater as well." )
 
 
 
From the Archives: Past Science Friday interviews with Bernie Krause

About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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