Mapping the Forest Soundscape


The internet is a sprawling amalgamation of wasteland and oasis. For every worthless, vile haven there is a beacon of wonder we could not have accessed a generation or two ago. I recently had a conversation about education in which it occurred to me that I believe one of the key traits for “success” in the modern world is the ability to ascertain which information is useful. Toss the garbage, keep the treasure. Obviously, that notion is far easier spoken than achieved. It’s impossible to wade through the effectively-infinite information out there to find all the gems in the rough. To me, it seems, curation is more important than ever.

I find the sounds of nature are equal parts enthralling and calming. One of the best parts of youtube, for me, is the videos that feature hours of outdoor noise. Rain on a tin roof. Wind through leaves. Thunderstorms. Waves hitting rocky shores. Crackling fireplaces. Stream eddies or rushing rivers. With earphones, I can transport my consciousness out of the room and lower the blood pressure.

I stumbled upon a project recently which offers some cohesion between the preceding two paragraphs. A group of artists and scientists are recording the sounds of the forests in locations across the world and marrying the sounds to the map.

The Sounds of the Forest Worldwide Map

Sounds of the Forest is an open-source collaboration. The creators write, “We are collecting the sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world, creating a growing soundmap bringing together aural tones and textures from the world’s woodlands.”

Each dot on the map features a recording of the forest in that location. As you can see, the project is fairly young and there are some open spots on the globe, but audio diaries are starting to populate all over our earth.

This resource is fantastic on multiple levels. It is a great documentarian tool, preserving the sounds of the world’s woods for the future. It is a great virtual traveling tool. You’ve never been to the Ankasa Forest in Ghana? Neither have I. But we can hear what it sounds like when it’s raining there! It is a great tool for relaxation or concentration. You can open the links in Soundcloud and loop them for some wonderful noise-cancellation or meditation. 

I discovered the project before the organization behind it, which is interesting in itself. The Timber Festival is billed as The International Forest Festival. They describe themselves thusly: “An annual three-day festival at the heart of the National Forest, Timber celebrates our connection to trees and woodlands through music, art and ideas, taking its inspiration from the transformed landscape of the National Forest in the Midlands.”

Obviously, attending the Timber Festival in the United Kingdom might not quickly be in the cards for me or you. But this aural atlas the organization is stitching together is an amazing resource for those of us who draw sustenance from the forest.

Some of the most impressionable memories I have are related to the audiovisuals of a forest. One place I like to go when I need a mind-break is a spot in Maine near a lake. Sitting beneath a clerestory of trees, the wind is gentling rustling the leaves and the sun is pouring through the gaps, dropping bending beams as the branches sway. The calm I felt there connected me to the energy of the universe. I wish I could have recorded it to add to this map, but the memory predated my access to recording equipment or the internet. Thankfully, I can now share in the experiences others had in far-flung spots of the planet and its truly incredible forests.

Check out Sounds of the Forest in the Further Reading section below!

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