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Soundscapes of Nature's Silence

We've isolated some of our favorite narrative sound treatments included in this radio show and podcast. Listen in (we strongly encourage headphones or earbuds!) as we pair these soundscapes with reflective passages and photos.

A Hike Through the Hoh Rain Forest: A Soundscape Meditation

Through the sounds of the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, Hempton guides us on an aural hike to One Square Inch of Silence.

Sitka Spruce on Rialto Beach

Poke your head inside this giant driftwood log and experience a "surf symphony in the wild" as the surf plucks the wood fibers and cause them to vibrate like the strings of a violin.

The Poetics of Space Across Latitudes

An aural journey across three zones — from the Amazon and Central America to the temperate latitudes of the Great Northwest. The difference in silence will astound you.

The Listening Horizon at Dawn

Taken from his recordings of dawn in the Midwest U.S., Gordon Hempton uses this condensed audio to help people practice true listening in wide, open space.

Selected Readings

Selected Reading from "One Square Inch of Silence"

Sounds of Silence
"More than ever before, we need to fall back in love with the land. Silence is our meeting place. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it."

A lyrical essay in which Gordon Hempton reminds the reader of what we can find inside ourselves through nature and how it makes us better listeners too. A must-read.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

Just a lovely pairing of poetic prose + lyrical photos to ease into the day. Take a few minutes for yourself and reflect with this contemplative piece.

A magical description of the primordial silences of people and places outside urban corridors by Taline Voskeritchian.

A lyrical essay in which Gordon Hempton reminds the reader of what we can find inside ourselves through nature and how it makes us better listeners too. A must-read.

A minute-long time lapse film of the Milky Way taken in Mauna Kea, Hawai'i will surely spark your sense of wonder.

A series of portraits of Buddhist monks in silence from a 1966 doc by Arnaud Desjardins.

A Twitterscript recap of our interview with the man who is trying to preserve the last quiet places.

About the Image

Gordon Hempton records the winter silence of the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park near One Square Inch of Silence.

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Comments

Please tell Gordon that as he looses his hearing he does not have to stop hearing the world around him. The hearing experience becomes less about 'first hand' listening and you learn to use modern tools like hearing aids and headphones.
I was born in 1956 and early in my childhood I contracted an ear infection; many ear infections. There was one infection that my mother could not control and we went back to the doctor (not a specialist, a family practioner in the neighborhood) who looked in my ear to see swollen eardrums. There in the office he 'surgically' punctured my eardrums to allow them to drain.
I don't remember much of anything about that procedure but I remember the following days of pain at the slightest sharp noise. An old spring closed, wooden screen door was explosive.
Move ahead to my 40's. I did not fully recover my hearing due to scarred eardrums. Men and some women in my father's line experience nerve deafness. I finally got a job with insurance benefits. My first hearing aid was primitive by todays' standard, but I felt a sense of childish wonder. I had heard bird song before but never this clearly nor this many. I have known the song of the Eastern Meadow Lark, our state bird, but I had never heard the whole song. Going back to the woods was splendid.
I was also overwhelmed. I felt I had to wear the aids whenever I was awake. There was so much sound. Appliances make so much, so many sounds. For several weeks cars that were several blocks away sounded as if they were going to run over me. And the dogs!
I wanted to hear my wife and my children and not ask them to repeat. Now I could hear them outside and upstairs and the neighbors also. I discovered I am not nearly as stealthy as I fancied.
I learned to turn them off. One day a week on the weekend I do not put them in for several hours. It was hard to return to the normal world of sound after thirty years. Quietness is good for mental and emotional health. Having these experiences helped me rediscover this. Thanks for your work. cam

Walt Kelly's Pogo walking across a log asks Albert the alligator, "What's the greatest sound ever heard?" Albert replies with reference to a very famous jazz piece. Next frame, close up full body of Pogo on the log arms outstretched, "no.... Silence.."
This strip adorned my refrigerator for many many years. A few too many moves, it's gone. I hope someone can find it. So far Google has not helped. It's worth looking for. HT

This was a lovely way to start a weekend day. I was on the way to a horse show, with lots of artificial sounds, but I found myself listening to the way the distant birdsounds of the early morning gave way to the footfalls of the horses. That other stuff? The trucks, cell phone rings, loudspeaker, shouting? Noisier than usual.

Thanks for an excellent show.

The episode might justly be subtitled, “Grace notes.” The winter wren, the Hoh’s echoing, Krista’s questions & Girdon’s observations wove a story of homecoming and belonging to silence that moved me to tears . . . . I couldn’t help but think of John O’Donnaghue and some of his thoughts on silence and solitude and homecoming. Anyhow, thank you for bringing healing sounds to my day.

Just hearing On Being tonight, July 8. I love this topic; I love the silence, and sounds, of nature. Also, I resonate with the idea of my church being outdoors, not in a building. Fabulous discussion. Thank you, Mr. Hempton and Ms. Tippett!

This interview really resonates.
I enjoyed many of the observations. Gordon Hempton is helping us to experience the joys of ephemeral treasures.

On the other hand, I disagree that "focusing (or listening for a specific sound) is a form of controlled impairment..." This sounds odd as he filters with headphones and a focusing-microphone to selectively pick and choose, like a real artist -I might add.

Although it is clever rhetoric, I also disagree with the oversimplified notion that
"Silence is not an absence of sound; it is an absence of noise."
This is convenient in order to romanticize sound, as in the poetics of trains..., etc., but less sound does contribute to the quality of quietude.

Also, do we really hear birdsong as mere "music"? Although music may be the language of sound, language is not necessarily musical; it may be appreciated for other qualities. This could digress into old debates of Form or Function, Substance or Style, Beauty or Truth…CONTENT or CONTEXT…

My focused thoughts are: Silence or Tranquility, Quiet or Tranquility, Nature or Domestic. There is mention of DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, yet the only ones who seem to be actively seeking it are those who are pushed over the edge. They foolishly end up incarcerated from resorting to physical action after some altercation due to fireworks, barking dogs, loud music, loud parties, etc.

  • Thanks for a very worthy topic; it deserves much more thought and consideration.
  • Sincerely,
  • John "Gusty" of Houston, Texas.
  • I wonder if your Olympic Peninsula is really quieter than the Coastal Redwoods? I totally agree with your commitment to silence, but it really is not silence, but rather the absence of man-made noise. I have connected to Bernie Krause (The Great Animal Orchestra) and wonder how your work intersects with his .I invite you to visit our ranch, a place Bernie deems one of the last bastions of unpolluted natural sounds. I think this might be an addition to your list of quiet places.

    Nice!!!

    This was a fascinating podcast - I'm really interesting in listening. Though I disagree with Hempton's illusive definition of silence. He tends to define it as it works for him. His definition isn't about silence, but about sounds that work for him - albeit nice sounds! (not man made). A person who for the past several years really has been studying and writing about and performing "listening" and who understands that some spaces that are less noisy than others (none are silent) - is Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening Institute that she founded. Fascinating stuff - I recommend her and the institute to any person who is interested in "Deep Listening." I think her take on listening makes more sense, or at least is less biased than Hempton's view. See: http://www.deeplistening.org/site/content/home (I also think Pauline would be an interesting interview for Krista on the show "On Being."

    I am in the quiet car on Milwaukee North Line Metra train to Union Station Chicago ... My favorite time of the day ... I am reading Eckhart Tolle's --Power of Now-- when I listened to this podcast on my Sunday Morning dog walk I was struck by the similarities of the message to find your self in silence and to find your self in the Now. That God is revealed in the one square inch of silence between the past and the future and how difficult it is to find that spot but once found it begins to expand and if you practice being mindful it can fill your entire being with light ... But there I was with earbuds listening it the interview missing the chance to be in the now with the birds and other creatures of the alleys I walk with my dogs ... But I have no other free time to listen to Krista ... Oh the choices we must make ... And I also love trains

    This is the second time I have listened to this show and am equally enthralled by the presenter and his work. Thank you for rebroadcasting this gem of an interview!

    Isn't it funny that you hear a wonderful show like this on WNYC.ORG, the NYC public radio station, on how we are STARVED for silence in this country ... and then later you hear (ad naseum) ads by wnyc.org but that say, "WNYC ... NEVER TURN IT OFF" and other ads that trumpet how you can now take WNYC.org ANYWHERE -- with the examples being the High Line (a park on an abandoned elevated railroad track in Manhattan) and some wonderful place of nature (the Grand Canyon?).

    I really enjoyed this episode. I am eager to seek out the silence. Where I live, in suburbia, there is very little of this (think lawn mowers and water pumps at 7:00AM on a Saturday). :)

    Good times!

    I saw the piece on CBS news and my heart broke. Please tell me how I can order this composit work that will help with your medical expenses.God bless you and your wonderful work.....Anna

    I didn't read it yet but I know it's brilliant . My beautiful 38 year old daughter is losing her hearing. I can relate to Gordon. Thank you for documenting your sounds. I am in touch with his mind!

    I've been going on day hikes on the weekend to get away from the city and debrief from the week. This past weekend I listened to this podcast during the ride up to Northern Michigan. I had goosebumps the whole drive listening to Gordon talk about silence. There's so much noise in my life. Not just aural, but electronic and emotional noise. I need more silence to stay grounded, and escaping into nature fulfills this need.

    This conversation was so uplifting. It was food for my soul. My heart is filled with joy and gratitude that people like Krista and Gordon exist!

    My dream from childhood on. As a perfect place would like to spend night in a small cave near rocks trees and lakes with wind m rain so I can just listen. Always thought of this since child now am 55. Maybe am not normal. One more thing on my list before I go

    In 2009, I led a day camp for teenagers at the Canadian Centre for Architecture called 'Slow Teen.' One of the highlights of a very rich (and fun!) week together was when we turned one of rooms of the museum into a camera obscura. The teenagers entered in silence and (without our having to instruct them) they stayed in that silence for the hour we were there. The peace was palpable, mesmerizing... and nobody wanted to leave that space.

    For anyone interested, I wrote a little about the experiences here: http://on.fb.me/I6mU4w

    Pages

    Voices on the Radio

    is founder and vice president of The One Square Inch of Silence Foundation based in Joyce, Washington. He's the author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet.

    Production Credits

    Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

    Senior Editor: Trent Gilliss

    Technical Director/Producer: Chris Heagle

    Senior Producer: David McGuire

    Associate Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

    Coordinating Producer: Stefni Bell

    apples