World Environment Day: Noise Pollution

In a local World Heritage listed national park the sounds of birds, rivers, and wind in the trees is becoming increasingly compromised by the sound of air traffic. Parks once designated in part to provide a sanctuary from the lo-fi static of the outside world are losing their acoustic balance.

In 1977 soundscape artist R. Murray Schafer foresaw the problems related to an increase in human population and technology, writing: noise in the sky is distinguished radically from all other forms of noise in that it is not localised or contained … modern technology has given each individual the tools to activate more acoustic space. This development would seem to be running a collision course with the population increase and reduction of available physical space per individual.

The first clip in this post demonstrates this problem. Recorded in Mebbin National Park, over 7 minutes of the 8 minute clip contains the sound of air traffic.
The second clip is recorded in the same park – whip birds on the forest floor call to each other at approximately 20 second intervals while dew drips from the trees.
The contrast between the two clips is obvious.

6 thoughts on “World Environment Day: Noise Pollution

  1. R. Murray Schafer really did foresee the acoustic future. His thoughts are as relevant today as when they were first written. Noise pollution is something we all wrestle with every day. I fear that we may come to accept it as part of our everyday sonic landscape.


    1. Yes, it seems inevitable that it will get worse with the increase in cheap flights. As sound recordists should we accept the sound of unwanted industrial noise in our clips – this being the reality of the acoustic environment?


  2. This is a very interesting question. I think it depends on what sort of recording one is doing. In the street recording I do I try to capture atmospheres and a sense of place. The “unwanted” sounds are very much a part of those atmospheres even though I try to avoid them if I can. I can well imagine other situations though where the “unwanted” sounds would be very unwelcome and, if they can’t be avoided they should reduced or eliminated in the editing. It’s ‘horses for courses’ I think.


  3. Thanks for your comment. It’s beautiful to spend time in that green space – sharing the first hours of morning with 400-year old ironbark trees and the ever-present crack of the whip birds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s