“I no longer like the term anthrophony,” Stuart Gage said as he walked through the forest listening to birds. A gray-bearded, soft-spoken former entomologist-turned-soundscape ecologist, Gage has a measured way of speaking and a saintly determination to neither use insect repellent nor to swat the swarms of mosquitoes battening onto him. If Krause is the godfather of soundscape ecology and Pijanowski its current evangelist, Gage is the bridge. He helped Krause come up with the taxonomy of sound in the early 2000s and advised Pijanowski on his thesis. “I’ve argued with Bernie a number of times that we ought to use the term technophony to distinguish sounds humans make from technological sounds — because humans are critters too, we communicate in the same way, with our voices. But we also make things.”
Jeff Migliozzi, a teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind, agreed. “You’re essentially redefining man, saying instead of being a biological creature, we’re creators of technology, and the rattle and the hum.”
“Maybe that’s true,” said Gage.
A model of different forms of sound and silence in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge by Tim Mullett, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Out on the estuary, Pijanowski was checking a recorder he’d set up in May. It had captured the pounding surf, shrieking gulls, sparrows, crickets, and hawks. The tides set the rhythm: high tide was silent and low tide cacophonous, as the birds swooped down to devour animals trapped in the tide pools. There was a rhythm to the technophony too, a dawn chorus of diesel engines as fishermen moved up and down the coast, weekly influxes of jets and speedboats, heavier on the weekends and increasing into summer.
The issue of mechanical noise was a major theme of the workshop, and of soundscape ecology in general. Falk Huettmann from the University of Alaska Fairbanks projected a noise map of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge made by his graduate student Tim Mullett. Mullett had traveled deep into the glacial refuge to set up microphones, going high into the mountains dozens of miles from the nearest road. He still found mechanical noise everywhere, mostly from airplanes and snowmobiles.
Speaking grimly in a German accent, Huettmann declared, “We need to abandon the idea of wilderness. It doesn’t exist.”