Noise From the Field

Barking tree frogs, exploding dragonflies, crackling Arctic fjords—the Top 10 wildest field recordings

Top 10 Field Recordings     Photo: Clockwise from top left: courtesy of BGO; courtesy of Gruenrekorder; courtesy of Rykodisc; courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

FOR AS LONG AS recording equipment has existed, we’ve been pointing it at hippos, shoving it down anthills, and dropping it into the sea—to learn more about animal behavior, document changes in ecosystems, or just freak out at the crazy sounds nature makes. Recent strides in digital-audio technology and the availability of smaller and more sensitive microphones have made it possible to probe further down the food chain, where sound plays just as important a role in organizing the lives of species as it does among the birds, bees, coyotes, and rhinoceri. They’ve also enabled conventional musicians to tap into the compositional potential of the natural world. Presenting 50 years of field recording’s greatest hits.

Songs of the Humpback Whale

Environments 1: The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore

Brian Eno, Ambient 4: On Land

The Atmosphere Collection: Thunderstorm

Sounds of North American Frogs

Chris Watson, Weather Report

Tucker Martine, Broken Hearted Dragonflies

David Dunne, The Sound of Light in Trees

Janet Winderen, The Noisiest Guys on the Planet

Tom Lawrence, The Water Beetles of Pollardstown Fen

Honorable Mention: Higher Intelligence Agency and Biosphere, Polar Sequences

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