Musician Sam Lee talks about the impact of nature sounds

About a century ago, in May 1924, English cellist Beatrice Harrison appeared on one of the very first BBC broadcasts. She played a number of tunes in her garden, and the nightingales sang along with her from the surrounding trees.

The broadcast became a hit at the time, and similar performances were broadcast annually for another 12 years in a row.

Nature heals

Photo by Pixabay

The atmosphere of interaction between music and natural sounds makes a person feel calm and peaceful. This is probably why many composers created works inspired by nature, for example, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

With the development of recording technologies, samples from the natural world are used more and more actively in music.

Einoyuhani Rautavaara, Finnish composer, added polar bird sounds to his piece CantusArcticus (1972), and Bernie Krause, a musician and ecologist from the United States, has been recording and archiving sounds of nature for his works for decades.

We are increasingly turning to the sounds of nature, due to both environmental problems and living conditions during a pandemic.

In US Research Paper 2021 Synthesis of the health benefits of nature sounds and their distribution in national parks (for the scientific journal PNAS) talks about the beneficial effects of sounds, including water and birds, within cities:

“The sounds of nature improve health … The natural acoustic environment signals the absence of threats and dangers, allowing people to control their psychological state, get rid of stress and relax.”

And indeed it is. The sounds of forests, meadows and rivers contribute to the improvement of the state, even if these sounds are digital.

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Forest 404

Such studies and findings have led to numerous projects in the arts, culture and science.

The BBC launched a project in early 2021 “Soundscapes (soundscapes) for wellness” with simultaneous experiment Virtualnature sponsored by the University of Exeter, which measures listeners’ responses to digital natural sounds.

Photo by Pixabay

An exciting radio series was also released Forest 404 with the effect of presence. This is an eco-sci-fi thriller (it takes place in the 24th century, when all forests were destroyed) with interactive discussions about nature and ecology, plus gorgeous soundscapes.

Radio series creator Tim X Atack explains how he handled the producer’s task:

“My playwright brain wondered what it would be like if someone listened to such recordings when the natural world had already disappeared. And I sent my story to the 24th century.

What will natural sounds be like for a listener from the future who has no idea what a bird’s song, the sound of ocean waves or trees is?

It also scared me that I had a great idea of ​​a future where people could play, say, a blackbird singing sound file and confuse it with something like a dial-up modem sound.

Many composers have added birdsong to their music in order to achieve a certain effect, but it seems to me that their works are increasingly becoming the sounds of a world in jeopardy.

In my understanding, these melodies no longer sound so joyful, but rather resemble songs for the inanimate. So I realized that I had to reflect this feeling of mine in Forest 404“.

“Interaction with listeners is what interests me the most.– says Tim Etak. – One Australian woman played soundscapes while walking through the forest after the fires and posted the tapes on social media. It was a very emotional moment for me. She even saved the koala and played the forest sounds in her car while driving her to the animal shelter. “

Natural spells and enchantments

grass in the forest
Photo by Pixabay

Natural sounds are now very widely used by many performers and organizations. The British Library, for example, has used its sound archives for programs such as DigitalNatureand FaintSignals

“These sound archives are a source of inspiration for both creative people and audiences, – says Kenn Taylor, producer of the British Library. – These are the sounds of various reservoirs, wildlife, weather conditions, and even the sounds of seeds jumping out of pods and seed pods. Sounds are capable of virtually transporting people to a wide variety of locations. We want to make our collection as accessible as possible. “

“Singing with the Nightingales”

Sam Lee, a musician, singer and ecologist, constantly takes nature and music lovers to the forest, where he gives concerts called “Singing with the Nightingales”… He and his group NestCollective create amazing outdoor projects and online broadcasts.

Photo by Pixabay

“Music is a powerful tool that helps us to re-experience the relationship with nature.– says the musician. – What we are doing now is the result of all my travels: ecology, collecting plants, indigenous cultures, medicine. Songs and culture are intertwined with nature, and I realized that their separation is the main reason why we came to a situation of ecological disaster. “

A signal to wake up

Sam Lee is often awake at night, listening to birdsong, and then jokingly jokes, they say, “I’ll definitely sleep off in the next world.”

“I am amazed at how many people have little understanding of what is happening in the environment., – the musician admits. – In Britain, the rate of resource depletion is more active than in Europe, and the level of deforestation is higher than in Brazil and Asia. We are simply ditching our natural capital and heritage, destroying everything pointlessly. We lose ourselves, because by the time we decide to save something, everything will disappear irrevocably. ”

For Sam Lee, his forest concerts symbolize hope: “We are living in an amazing time and we need to make significant changes. We have been protecting the environment for decades, but this should be the largest social movement of our era. “

There is something really exciting in the union of man with the sounds of nature.

Sam Lee recalls being present at a memorable performance by South African virtuoso cellist Abel Selaokoe and the Nightingales: “Abel began to play, and the birds chirped and chirped loudly in the same key and in the same rhythm. The audience was shocked. It just sounded unrealistic. “

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