The new EQS under the magnifying glass: Gordon Hempton, American acoustic ecologist
The sounds of the new ENERGIZING NATURE program of the EQS are based on the audio library "Quiet Planet", which nature acoustician and silence activist Gordon Hempton has created over the years. For his recordings, he travels around the world with microphones and measuring instruments.
"As 'The Sound Tracker®,' I've circled the globe three times in the last 35 years to track the rarest natural sounds on earth - sounds that can only be fully appreciated without artificial noise", said Hempton. He now has places certified where only nature can be heard. "I want to preserve the silence before it disappears from the world altogether".
In his book, "The Earth is a Solar Powered Music Box", the Californian recounts how his career began by chance on a summer afternoon some 40 years ago: "I parked the car on the side of the road and lay down in a field to rest. The sky was full of storm clouds. The storm was coming straight at me. And as it rolled and rumbled, even with my eyes closed, I could get a clear picture of the valley and all the surrounding area. When the storm passed, I was startled. How can I be 27 and have never really listened"? Hempton dropped out of his biology studies at the University of Wisconsin and worked as a bicycle messenger until he saved up the money for an expensive dummy head for high-quality audio recordings.
Hempton has since published numerous albums of recordings of nature and written many books. For the thriller "Survival" he captured the whistling of the wind in the Andes. He supplies software manufacturer Microsoft with sounds for PC games and the "Encarta" encyclopaedia. For his television documentary "Vanishing Dawn Chorus" for US network PBS, he won an Emmy in 1992 for "outstanding individual achievement".
In the fall of 2003, Hempton ironically suffered his first bout of sudden deafness. It took 18 months before he could hear properly again. As a consequence, in 2005 he proclaimed the "Square Centimetre of Silence" in the Hoh Rainforest in the US state of Washington, one of his favourite areas of tranquillity. Hempton: "Within a year, I got three airlines to change their routes. I wrote them that silence was a protected natural resource, and sent them recordings of their noise pollution to go with it".
Are there still places whose sounds he would like to record? Hempton: "My wish list includes 527 such places ... Some examples: the mountains of northern Venezuela. The oilbird lives in their caves deep in the forest. I want to explore the soundscape of the cave and hear if the oilbird chirps differently than its close relative, the grey dipper. Singing sand has also fascinated me for a long time. You can find it at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Namibia or in Mongolia. Finally, Adak, part of the Aleutian Island chain, is known as the 'Birthplace of the Winds'. I'd love to record the sound of 80 mph fog there in Alaska."