Birdsong – The Essential Soundtrack

With 7 billion of us on the planet, it’s becoming a very noisy place.  Maybe you haven’t noticed yet but recorded birdsong is beginning to appear, anywhere from blogs and websites to airport lounges and service station toilets.  Seems good sound may be starting to equate to good business.

Natural sound may also help you function better in the workplace.  Research into understanding birdsong is in its early days, but according to British sound expert, Julian Treasure, the sound of birds stimulates our brain, while at the same time inducing physical relaxation.  He offers a free smartphone app based on birdsong, which is designed to boost productivity, improve focus and keep you more alert, particularly after lunch when you’re likely to feel that postprandial slump.

Business is one thing, but did you know your health can also be improved by listening to natural sounds?  Birdsong is not just “music to our ears” but known to help lower stress, anxiety and even depression.  City dwellers tend to shut down their hearing because the sounds of their environment are too harsh.  Whenever you can, take a break in a large park or ideally a forest or bushland, where you feel free to let your ears relax.  Meditators will relate to the importance of relaxing and letting the listening “run out” as far as possible.

Why do you suppose humans find birdsong reassuring?  There’s a story going round in the sound industry. Call it myth, legend or a paleo fairytale if you like, but it makes sense.  When our migratory ancestors reached a dividing valley, a fork in the “road” so to speak, they would employ listening skills to decide which direction to take.  Birdsong implied all was well with the world.  Lack of birdsong indicated the opposite. In early days we couldn’t afford to risk the road less travelled  – the one without the sound of birds.

Yet where do we find ourselves now?  A major loss that is accompanying our current ecological crisis is the decrease in the world’s bird population.  Hunted for centuries for food and sport, they are now increasingly losing their habitat to urban development.  Not much chance now that we can find safe passage by listening to the natural world, yet how many of us contemplate the significance of the loss of birds?  Fortunately a few enlightened sound recordists are doggedly covering the planet to try to archive the diminishing sounds of nature, including birds, before they are lost forever. We need to do whatever it takes to bring the sound of birds back into our lives.

If you’re a birdwatcher, or more importantly a bird listener, you may enjoy BBC4’s current soundfest of birdsong.   British birds are being showcased in a series called Tweet of the Day which you can also download as an MP3 file.  It’s also a great opportunity to introduce city children to the world of birds.  Children born into noise and haste are losing the ability to listen, particularly for anything longer than a sound grab. Tuning in to the sounds of nature is great for kids.

Never heard a nightingale sing?  Listen to David Attenborough introducing one here.



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