Federal Agencies Listening to Nature – Government research teams are gathering data about ambient sounds in our national parks. They set up a pair of omnidirectional mics on large tripods with windscreens, hooked to batteries, computers and sound-level analyzers. A very few places they hear nothing but the wind in the trees, whereas in most parks they get loads of natural, human-caused and aircraft sounds. According to the Soundscape Preservation Director for our 300+ national parks, peace and quiet are the two main reasons people come to the parks.
The Park Service calls the wildlife sounds, waterfalls, leaves rustling, etc. the “biophony.” It is being attacked more and more by airplanes and helicopters at many parks, as well as the proliferating cars, RVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles. Among other things, the data being collected at some parks, such as in Hawaii, will help the park management decide how to regulate air tours over the parks. The Park Service is also interested in using their cataloged sound recordings to educate the public about their natural and cultural heritage and to teach them to listen in a new way. Interpreters at some national parks are trying new programming focused on sound. And any layperson can learn from the wiggly lines of a spectrogram, which shows all the sounds over just a few seconds. It looks like a cross between the audio bars on your video recorder and a lie-detector printout. Without having to go where the sounds were recorded, an expert looking at this graphic biophony representation can tell which forest is well-established and healthy, and which one is young, stressed or weak – just by looking at the printed spectrogram.
EMI Stresses Online Classical Promotion – EMI & Virgin Classics now sell higher-res 320kbps downloads which are DRM-free on iTunes Plus. Cost for an album is the same as for standard MP3 files. The site makes it easier to access and learn about classical music than the standard iTunes, and EMI is hoping to eventually provide completely lossless classical downloads. The EMI & Virgin Classics Listening Club has also been launched. Purchasers of CDs with the Opendisc logo can place the CDs in their computers and easily access the club site where they can get prerelease audio files, video interviews, podcasts, photos, even send their questions to a panel of experts. The idea is to get traditional classical music lovers who play their CDs only on their audio systems to also listen to music on their computers.