Mapping the Soundscape

In Fall of 2022 the Mapping the Soundscape Scholars class began to create an evolving sound archive. Every week hours of recordings were gathered from various locations within Binghamton University's 182 acre nature preserve. Several different microphones were used to record the Biophony, Anthropophony, and Geophonies of sound along the trails. The class was informed and guided partially by two books, Bernie Krause's “Wild Soundscapes” along with “Reading the Forested Landscape” by Tom Wessels. Guests invited into the class included Dylan Horvath, steward of the Nature Preserve, and Justin Mann, a behavioral ecologist with a specialization in migratory bird patterns.  Many in class and out of class hours were spent familiarizing students with the nature preserves trails and the diversity it offers. The recordings spanned the full semester from late Summer into early Winter and several projects culminated out of the recording processes. The first was the start of a sound archive for the nature preserve in addition to field notes and photos. The second included group sound compositions gleaned from the many hours of recordings. Included below are a sampling of these projects along with process descriptions. Enjoy!

Soundscape Compositions

At the end of the semester we shared a Google drive including all the sound we had recorded throughout the semester.  Students were placed in small groups to create soundscape compositions utilizing this sound archive.  Each group came up with a concept and listened through the materials to create a unique sound composition based on their discussed theme.  These compositions use recordings spanning from late Summer, Fall, into Early Winter.  The notes that are included stem from their own personal field notes as well as conversations they had with their group members.

Interviews about the process 

In the last few days of the semester students spent some time talking with each other and reflecting on a few of their experiences hiking in the nature preserve, listening, and recording.  Below are a few excerpts from these discussions. 

Individual Field Recording Projects

Twelve weeks into the semester students were asked to select some of their favorite recordings.  The archive below is a sampling from these longer field recording sessions.  Each student spent approximately 1 hour every week including class trips to various trails.  Students were encouraged to go out in weather that was not always pleasant, at times adverse conditions were conducive to capturing interesting sounds.  On each of the recording sessions students were asked to include descriptive notes of the location including the weather and time of the recording.  The microphone they used was also an important part of the field notes.  Over the course of the semester microphones were rotated amongst the students.  They included very focused microphones such as Shotgun, and Parabolic to wider patterned Binaural and Stereo microphones.  Some of the more specialized microphones also included Hydrophones for underwater recording, contact microphones, and the ELF (Extreme low frequency recorder) which had the tendency to pick up an occasional radio transmission.  

The archive below is a small representation of sound from the many hours spent hiking, listening, and recording within the nature preserve.