The Great Animal Orchestra (Ebook)

Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places

Bernie Krause

A fascinating and unique exploration of nature's music, from plants and animals to wind and rain.

Bernie Krause is the world's leading expert in natural sound. Beginning by recording the sound of wheat growing in a Kansas field, he has spent the last 40 years recording ecological soundscapes and the sounds of over 15,000 species. Due to human actions, half of the wild soundscapes he has on tape no longer exist.

Krause divides natural sound into three categories. Biophony is the sound made by animals and plants, like the shrimp whose underwater clicks are equivalent to a Boeing 727 taking off. Geophony is natural sound - made by wind, water and rain - which led different tribes to have different musical scales. And anthrophony is human-generated sound, which as it has rapidly increased has affected animals - for instance, causing disoriented whales to become beached. In The Great Animal Orchestra Krause invites us to listen through his ears to all three as he showcases singing trees, contrasting coasts, and the roar of the modern world.

Just as streetlights engulf the stars, human noise is drowning out the sounds of nature, and our focus on the visual today blinds us to this. The Great Animal Orchestra shows why it is vital we preserve our remaining natural soundscapes - and will make you hear the world entirely differently.

Loved by experts from E. O. Wilson to Norman Lebrecht, this unique book - now out in paperback, combines music and cultural history with science to appeal to everyone from David Attenborough fans to music lovers.

Publication date: 01/04/2012


ISBN: 9781847658531


Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Arts, Language & Literature, Science & Mathematics

Reviews for The Great Animal Orchestra

'In his fascinating book, Krause urges us to open our ears ... his tone is full of wonder'

 Daily Mail

'One of those books you are grateful to have read'


'Weird and wonderful ... This is an extraordinary and important book. I challenge anyone to read it and not hear for themselves sounds they have never heard - or rather never noticed - before'


'Bernie Krause and his niche theory are the real thing. His originality, research, and above all basic knowledge of the sound environments in nature are impressive. The idea of music originating in the sound communication systems of wild animals is a sound and provocative hypothesis. I admire also his attention to the preservation of ancestral-level cultures for their own value but also as a testing ground for theory on human behavioral evolution.'

E. O. Wilson 

'The Great Animal Orchestra speaks to us of an ancient music to which so many of us are deaf. Bernie Krause is, above all, an artist. I have watched him recording the calls of chimpanzees, the singing of the insects and birds, and seen his deep love for the harmonies of nature. In this book he helps us to hear and appreciate the often hidden musicians in a new way. But he warns that these songs, an intrinsic part of the natural world and essential to human well being, are vanishing, one by one, snuffed out by human actions. Read The Great Animal Orchestra, tell your friends about it. And as Bernie urges, let us all do our part to preserve the age old sounds of nature.'

Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder - the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace 

'This fascinating book awakens our ancient ears to the source of all music. Read it, and you'll yearn to muffle our din -- and hear anew.'

Alan Weisman, author of THE WORLD WITHOUT US and the forthcoming COUNTDOWN 

'Krause always reveals wondrous stories of the meaning of music and sounds of our natural environment. Bernie's research into the subtleties of animal and insect sounds is unparalleled, but it is his description of the radical changes that are taking place on this planet that really makes on stop and wonder ... Listen carefully, for the sounds you hear may never be the same again.'

Sir George Martin 

'A vade mecum of ordered tranquillity -- a gift that came with the harmony of the spheres, allowing even the smallest livings things to sing love songs in many diverse ways while bragging that they are the fittest and will survive above the cacophony of war. A fascinating book of natural history, worthy to be read in the silence your own library, please listen to what it warns about all our futures. '

David Bellamy 

'Bernie Krause will make you rethink much of what you know about music. A man whose first job was recording the sound of corn growing in a Kansas field, he has spent 40 years listening with professional intent to things the rest of us ever hear. He has studied the way ants sing and whales roar. He can track the sound a virus makes as it moves from one surface to another. Krause is David Attenborough without the pictures and accompanying orchestra. He takes us close to the roots of the music and reminds us to stop and listen, not just lose our bearings in noise.It's such an unusual book -- and, in its quiet way, so important. Remarkable.'

Norman Lebrecht 


Bernie Krause, one of the lions of soundscape recording, shares his tales of jaguars, wind, and waterfalls, and how hard it is to capture their sounds. Who knew before that the most emotional animal sound he ever heard was the wail of a beaver after seeing his dam destroyed? Krause has spent decades hunting for those few sonic oases untrammeled by human noise, and at last he brings us his life philosophy. This expansive tale of living amidst wild and beautiful sounds has been well worth waiting for.


David Rothenberg, ECM recording artist, and author of THOUSAND MILE SONG and SURVIVAL OF THE BEAUTIFUL 

'I found this book to be a truly absorbing account of the natural world which will benefit all of us who are concerned about the habitats and survival of the planet's remaining wildlife. This book should and will be an inspiration to us all. I loved it.'

Terry Nutkins 

'Beautifully written and intriguing. Reading this book makes you feel as though you've just removed plugs from your ears; the symphony of the world moves from background to centre stage.'

David Eagleman, author of Sum and Incognito 

'An imaginative introduction to a new dimension of the natural world'

 Kirkus Reviews

'This memoir of sonic investigation highlights the lessons learned from 40 years of listening to the world's biophonies-the sounds of living organisms. Musician and naturalist Krause uses the language of music to understand everything from birdsong, to ocean waves, to decimated answer his questions about the origins of music, especially how the sonic structures inherent in biophany impacted human expression to take the form of music.'

 Publishers Weekly

'Language is rich with dozens of words for the act of seeing - look, stare, peek, ogle, glimpse, squint, gawk, etc. - but the act of listening is represented by only two: hear and listen. The Great Animal Orchestra, rectifies this shortfall with its rich descriptions of biophony, Krause's immensely useful term for the increasingly threatened sound fields of life on the planet Earth. Readers will enjoy not only Krause's personal story - his fifty-year journey uncovering the world of natural sound textures, their meanings and implications - but will feel as if they have experienced these sounds, ancient and modern, for themselves. The world will not seem the same to you after reading this marvelous book.'

Walter Murch, Academy-award winning sound editor for Apocalypse Now and The English Patient 

'Krause shows us the music of the natural world - long may his work continue! '

Pete Seeger 

'Discover how each species has its own vocal niche in the intricate soundscape of a stable ecosystem.'

Temple Grandin, author Animals in Translation 

'All this magnificent, if arcane, knowledge has now been brought together by Krause in a masterly tour of the soundscape. Entitled The Great Animal Orchestra, it makes a convincing case for the soundscape's overlooked value, partly for itself, and partly as an indication of the health of the natural world, and for one overwhelming reason for us as humans: in nature's collective voice, he says, can be located the origins of human music, and perhaps even human language'

Michael McCarthy Independent

'At the heart of this idiosyncratic volume is Krause's niche hypothesis ... Krause comes across as a likelable oddball, extolling the virtues of homemade clip-on cats ears and the authentic kind of ant music ... the book's coda is a passionate plea to halt human noise pollution'

 Sunday Telegraph

'A fascinating plea for humanity to turn the volume down and just listen'


'A passionate advocate ... Krause writes with a rush of enthusiasm for the subject'

 BBC Wildlife

'Alluring ... a fun and informative read that is likely to change the way that any reader listens to soundscapes, both urban and rural'

 Sunday Times

Bernie Krause

Bernie Krause

Dr Bernie Krause is a musician and naturalist. He has traveled the world recording the sounds of creatures and environments large and small, enabling thousands of people to hear the sounds of the remotest parts of the world. He provided sound background for Rosemary's Baby and Apocalypse Now and has worked with, among others, Sir George Martin, George Harrison, and, on the cult film Performance, Mick Jagger. He lives in California.