I’ve been reading a chapter from Julian Treasure’s book “Sound Business”. He says natural sounds, specifically wind, water and birdsong, are becoming ever less present in our urban environments. Natural sounds are being overwhelmed by urban noise. This is not good news.
According to Treasure there are 3 types of natural sounds that have a highly beneficial impact on our well being. He calls them WWB.
We know it as the gentlest caress to our earlobe or the deafening howl of a storm. Wind has us be present to one of the essentials of our existence – air. It is the breath of life. We become present to it as it passes through trees, tall grasses, and over expanses of sand. A less endearing and pleasing example is the sound of wind blowing down sterile corridors of office buildings. When we are in a windowless room with no air circulation we often feel like we are suffocating.
Rainfall, streams, rivers, waterfalls and the sea. We know it as the quiet burble of a fountain in a home or garden to the deafening roar of the Niagra Falls. Water is the other essential of life. Fountains bring comfort because the sound of water reassures us that something essential to our survival is available.
Birds, especially songbirds, have traditionally inhabited the same environments as humans. Most people find the sound of songbirds beautiful and comforting. The “absence” of birdsong is a warning signal to us – that danger is present or imminent. I can remember being stopped in my tracks when I suddenly realized I could not hear any birdsongs when they should have been present. While I was not scared by this I instinctively felt something was off and not normal.
Birdsong also connects us to the world. We are reminded we are here together on the planet with beings that are no threat to us. This leaves me wondering about sterile urban environments in which no songbirds are present. On a subconscious level are we expending energy to compensate for a natural unease this absence produces? Are we masking the natural fight or flight response we would normally have to the absence of birdsong?
There’s a problem.
We are creating a big problem for ourselves as we replace these natural sounds with the unpleasant noises of out urban environments. See my next blog, “Where Have All the Birds Gone?” to learn more about the problem and discover some possible solutions.