Sounds of the World: NYT Special Edition


I just spent an interesting half hour listening (and watching) a special edition of the New York Times called “Listen to the World”. I had dinner over the weekend with a BOD member of the venerated paper, who alerted me to this exciting experiment and truthfully, it lived up to the hype. You can access it here.

Click here and listen, either on a large screen or with the print edition – you look at few photos while you listen to the sounds. There is more whistling and crackling going on the world than I realized – from pure natural sounds such as volcanos spewing to aspen trees in the wind. You will look at bats and rats a bit differently, once you hear from them. And,  city and building sounds are particularly wonderful (a whispering gallery in India is particularly wonderful). And you will hear from some very interesting scientists about their various projects. The images which carry the sound are beautiful. It’s a giant meditation app, really… although you do have to hear an occasional story about G.E. (which is of course how the project was funded.)

Here are a few key ideas from the epilogue at the end of the piece – hearing may be underrated in our visual-focused lives:

“Humans are a visual species except, crucially, at our beginning and end. “In terms of development, hearing is one of the first things that turns on,” Aaron Rice, a bioacoustics researcher at Cornell, pointed out, referring to our time in the womb, when, at about 15 weeks, we begin to develop the ability to hear the swishing, thumping cacophony of our mother’s body. “They tell emergency medical services to always keep talking to a victim, because hearing is the last thing to turn off.”

Though our ears, unlike our eyes, are open at all times, we often fail to perceive consciously what we hear.

Researchers have also found that what we hear changes what we see.

We were able, in the absence of our own noise, to hear how mighty and resilient life on our planet is, how vulnerable and temporary we are.”

Listen to the World  (available on NYTimes by subscription or in print)