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The sound ecologist capturing a disappearing world: ‘70% of habitats I recorded are gone’


In a small black box theater at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the arid plains of Zimbabwe come to life in the thrum of chattering baboons and honking geese, and the shores of California materialize in the squawks of gulls and lapping waves. The haunting song of humpback whales conjures the stillness of the deep sea, drowning out the noise of the science museum – and the world – outside.

This is The Great Animal Orchestra, a sonic voyage through seven ecosystems composed by the pioneering soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause. After its 2016 premiere at the Fondation Cartier museum in Paris and subsequent tour through Europe and Asia, the immersive exhibit arrives on the west coast for the first time.

“It’s about damn time,” said Krause, who’s called the San Francisco Bay Area his home since the late 1950s.

Born in Detroit in 1938, Krause is best known for the musicality of his recordings of the natural world. For the last 55 years, he’s evoked the textures and contours of global habitats by layering hundreds of wildlife sounds into succinct tracts, or soundscapes.

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