The Sound Approach will be known to many as the team who have promoted a more critical appraisal of bird vocalisations and how we use them to identify birds and gain insights into their ecology. A harsh critic of their books might be turned off by their use of technology and sonograms that disconnect the sounds from its maker. But this new product, a vinyl record with beautifully illustrated sleeve, is more artwork than reference and celebrates the rich sounds of the natural world as well as the knowledge, enthusiasm and tenacity of the recordists that put it together.
The vinyl contains 17 recordings and these plus a further 22 are available on a supporting USB stick. These range in length from 35 seconds (the song of a Greater Hoopoe-Lark) to 5 minutes 29 seconds (a ‘descent’ of woodpeckers from Poland). This is not a collection of short edited sounds for identifying birds and it’s something of a revelation to hear what well-produced extended recordings of some of these species sound like. This is something to listen to on a decent stereo, or with good headphones, to fully appreciate the richness and depth of sound, whether it’s the sound of Ring Ouzel song echoing off distant crags, or the palpable excitement within the Black Grouse lek. And I challenge anyone not to smile on hearing the calls of Long-tailed Ducks.
The other dimension to this collection is the 15 interviews of the recordists which I found surprisingly compelling. They describe the challenges and experiences of finding, understanding and recording these species, revealing the long hours of travel, planning and dedication in the field necessary to record some species, but also the fortuitous nature of other.
Throughout, the connection the recordists have with their subjects is apparent. Like their previous products, ‘The Beauty of the Sound Approach’ encourages us to listen more carefully and critically, but also to appreciate the sounds of the natural world.