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Backyard Explorer #2 and a Note on Sound

For this week’s Challenge, we’re investigating sound! Using the Challenge Sheet or a blank piece of paper, Backyard Explorers can draw a visual representation of the sounds heard, listen for certain kinds of sounds, and make up a mnemonic phrase to help remember a bird song or call (e.g. who cooks for you? is a phonetic for the call of the Barred Owl). Don’t have a young one participating in the Backyard Explorer’s Challenge? Keep reading -- I’d like to propose a challenge for all of us to do today.

It’s Earth Day, and chances are if we’re online our screens are flooded with images of landscapes both near and far. But what about soundscapes? Exploring sound is another way to experience place and celebrate nature and our senses. Photographs capture the scene of a given moment, as do audio recordings. Tied to time and place, recordings also offer a kind of snapshot of an ecosystem -- one that when listened to, often activates memories, sensations, and emotions. 

Soundscapes aren’t limited to recordings, however, such as those found on white noise machines or study tracks. As an academic field, acoustic ecology is multifaceted, and draws in a wide variety of participants: composers, musicians, acoustical engineers and architects, anthropologists, biologists, sociologists, and more. There are ways to share soundscapes from all around the world, from rainforests to ice sheets. And of course, on a more fundamental level, sound is available live and unrecorded right here, right now. So I’d encourage us all, wherever we are, to take a moment, close our eyes and simply listen, paying attention to the dimensions of what we hear. It’s all part of a unique soundscape, and this Earth.

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