Aware that intensive field work was essential, we traveled to the world’s largest remaining areas of primary forest along the equator (where, given the equal length between days and nights, life cycles – and thus sonic behaviors – are evolutionarily tuned to extremely regular patterns) and recorded 24-hour sound portraits of various habitats within what are considered to be the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on Earth.
During the trips we have given great attention to the recording process. As compared to other scientific approaches, which mostly focus on a single species’ sonic languages and behavior, the recording strategies we adopted called for a broader ecological perspective, involving the collection of as many components as possible of a complex soundscape. Within this approach, the spatial information of a given acoustic environment becomes a key element in understanding the complexity of its organization and making it available to audiences. In high canopy forests, sounds come from every direction, including above (e.g. birds and monkeys) and below (e.g. amphibians and insects) the listening position. The human brain detects this three-dimensional information in its entirety through several subparameters that agree with our composite natural perception of direction, depth and dimension of sound sources. In order to record all these spatial attributes in the field, we employed “space-inclusive” and “space-preservative” standards and experimental mic techniques, to fully reproduce these ecosystems over periphonic loudspeakers arrays. The investigation of long temporal sections (over 24 hours of continuous recording) in such remote and dangerous habitats forced us to develop recording strategies suitable to extreme conditions (humidity up to 99%, sudden rainstorms, absence of electric current) and self-sufficient systems for hazardous situations, capable of adjusting the sonic perspective to on-ground, mid-floor and canopy species. Taking into account all these concerns while making the most out of cutting-edge technology was a process of years of research, which resulted in vivid sound portraits of this endangered biological heritage, now available for posterity.
Three families of field recording techniques were employed in the field for collecting data since 2002, encompassing the deployment of 12 standard and experimental microphone systems, today also used simultaneously to achieve the best ecosystem spatial sampling.
In 2010 and 2012, recording campaigns were carried out in primary forest regions in Brunei, Sarawak, and Sabah, and more specifically at Ulu Temburong, Mulu, and Kinabalu, working in collaboration with the University of Brunei Darussalam, the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Center and the Global Sustainable Soundscape Network. Habitats, including the dipterocarp forest (both in lowland riverbank and ridge areas), tropical mountain forest, the alluvial forest, and woodland over limestone terrain, were investigated using several standard and new-generation experimental 3D technologies. This body of recordings includes several high-definition circadian sound portraits (continuous 24hour+ samples), plus a large number of spot recordings in each habitat and at different heights from ground level, constituting a corpus of consistent sonic fragments of one of the oldest ecoregions on Earth.
In 2008, a recording campaign was carried out in the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve area in Central African Republic, with the collaboration of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society, Roland Films, and Lavinia Currier. New technology for capturing spherical soundfields was assembled and fully tested by the author during a Fulbright Research Fellowship conducted at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), University of California – Berkeley in 2007 and implemented here, in the geographic heart of Africa. The body of recordings includes 12hour+ samples of circadian cycles, a large number of spot recordings and binaural sound-walks through several habitats, such as the dry lowland forest, the riverbank and swamp forest, and a few Bai (saline) forest clearings. These recordings represent the unique sonic perspective of a very diverse ecosystem where vocalizations of large mammals fill the very low-end of the spectrum, contributing to one of the richest soundscapes on the planet.
After many trips in the secondary forests of Europe, temperate primary rainforests in Canada, Oregon, and California, a small number of preliminary test recordings were conducted in the mountain forests of Peru and Bolivia and in the savannahs and woodlands of Zambia and Zimbabwe, In 2002, the first field research in the equatorial primary Amazon was conducted in collaboration with Greenpeace Italy, Greenpeace Brazil, and Vivamazzonia. Three different habitats were sampled in the Jauperì River region (a tributary of the Rio Negro), mostly in the pristine area along the Igarapè Gaspar. Flooded (Igapò) forest, riverbank, and terra firma forests were recorded with standard and experimental technologies, forming the first body of impressive hi-definition sound portraits of the project Fragments of Extinction.
The 2015 field recording campaigns are being currently done in 2 areas of lowland primary forest in the equatorial Amazon.