Is birdsong music?

Birdsong is often exquisitely beautiful, yet many people argue that it is purely functional. It certainly enables birds to attract mates, declare their territories and communicate with individuals of their own species. Musicologist and composer, Hollis Taylor, has spent many years closely studying the songs of pied butcherbirds.

Hollis Taylor

In this hour long episode of the Science Show broadcast recently on ABC Radio National, Hollis outlines the case for birdsong as music.




Vicki Hallett attends Sonic Mmabolela

In 2017, Australian composer and musician Vicki Hallett attended the 5th Sonic Mmabolela workshop. Sonic Mmabolela is a residency for sound artists and composers with previous experience in sound recording and experimentation. It is held annually at Mmabolela Reserve in the Limpopo valley of South Africa.

Click here to hear some of the compositions from Sonic Mmabolela 2017

Live at Mabolel Rock from Vicki Hallett on Vimeo.




Presentations from the 2017 AWSRG Conference, Baradine

Each of the presentations at our 2017 conference were audio recorded as a document of the event, and are presented here in program order.

The acoustic in the room makes it difficult to hear at times, but hopefully the audio will be clear enough. Thanks to Bob Tomkins for making these recordings.

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Is noise causing birds stress responses similar to PTSD?

New research gives pause for thought…




Huon Peninsula Soundscape, Papua New Guinea Rainforest

The Perspectives on Listening Symposium in Brisbane this last December gave me the incentive to edit up a soundscape from our recent trip to the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea.

Leah Barclay invited myself (Andrew), Tony Baylis, David Stewart, Rod Thorn and Sue Gould to form a panel to discuss the trip and how we approached our sound recording. David, Rod and Sue were unable to attend, but Tony Baylis and I showed images and contrasted our individual field techniques and results. My impression of our one hour session was that many in the audience were particularly fascinated to hear of Tony’s bioacoustic field work.

Meanwhile, I edited this soundscape as an installation on multiple headphones so participants could immerse themselves in the rainforest during breaks in the symposium program.

The edit is compiled from seven sources, each about five minutes in duration, and representing aspects of the various altitude ranges to which we trekked and recorded.

Location sources are:
A – Hill forest (~1100m)
B – Mountain forest (Camp Astrapia) (~2000m)
C – Mountain forest (Midway Camp) (~2150m)
D – Cloudforest (Camp 13) (~2800m)
Timings are for approximate transitions.

0:00     1. Predawn insect chorus with Sooty Owl, Feline Owlet Nightjar and Papuan Boobook (B)
4:20     2. Dawn chorus with Regent Whistler, Lesser Melampitta and Ornate Fruit Doves (C)
10:10    3. Regent Whistler song (B)
16:40    4. Greater Ground Robin song (D)
21:30    5. Huon Bowerbird by its bower (D)
27:10    6. Emperor Bird of Paradise, with Cicadabird and Growling Riflebird (A)
33:40    7. Dusk cicada chorus, with Papuan Woodcock dusk flight calls (D)

I’ll be publishing extended recordings for free listening on our Listening Earth website in the near future, and will post specific links here.




Chris Watson interview with Richard Fidler

Chris Watson, British wildlife sound recordist

For those of you who (like myself) missed it when first broadcast a few months ago, here is a link to the delightful interview by Richard Fidler with British field recordist Chris Watson.

Chris is not only a hugely accomplished recordist, but a great story teller and sensitive naturalist, and unlike many interviewers dealing with sound and nature, Richard ‘gets it’.




Perspectives on Listening Symposium – Brisbane

Perspectives On Listening Symposium December 2017

December 7-9, 2017
​Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Brisbane

Biosphere Soundscapes and the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Griffith University are hosting “Perspectives on Listening”, an international symposium and workshop bringing together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to explore the role of sound in understanding place and environmental changes.

“Perspectives on Listening” will introduce the interdisciplinary possibilities of acoustic ecology and highlight emerging fields including ecoacoustics. The event features keynotes from Steven Feld (USA) and Monica Gagliano (West Australia) in addition to panels, research presentations, live performances, immersive installations, sound walks and field trips across the rainforests of the Sunshine Coast and aquatic ecosystems in Noosa Biosphere Reserve.
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Sound recording the cloudforests of Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula

Five members from the AWSRG have recently been field recording in the mountain forests of the Huon Peninsular in Papua New Guinea.

With three previous years recording in the region, Tony Baylis organised and lead this year’s expedition, comprising Sue Gould and her partner Rod Thorn (who both accompanied Tony last year), plus David Stewart and myself, Andrew Skeoch.

On the trail in Papua New Guinea – (from left) Rod Thorn, David Stewart, Andrew Skeoch, Tony Baylis and Sue Gould.

Tony’s connections with the local people were crucial to the expedition. Without permission and support from local landholders we simply could not have visited these forests. We hired porters from nearby villages to assist in moving all our equipment and supplies between camps. Here they arrive at our first bush camp in the morning, ready to help us relocate further up the mountain.

Tony and Rod ascending slowly. Trekking was exhausting, a combination of altitude and a vertical landscape. Often a day’s walk with only modest altitude gains, would involve first descending into a deep valley and then climbing up a sheer slope beyond. The locals were adapted to it, padding along in bare feet, but slippery rocks, mud and hidden tree roots were treacherous in our hiking boots. We relied on our walking poles for both balance and secure footing.

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A Magical Evening with Glossy Black Cockatoos

On one of the final evenings of our workshop, a group of us set out for Salt Caves Dam, to witness and record the Glossy Black Cockatoos coming in to drink on sunset.

We set up both terrestrial and hydrophone rigs, recording independently above and below the surface of the dam.

The hydrophones were filled with sound immediately, a rich symphony of aquatic insects fizzing away. However we had to wait quietly as the late afternoon ebbed before the glossy blacks came in. They timed their arrival just as the breeze stilled. A pair arrived first, and watched us unconcerned from a high vantage. After a while others drifted in, around 15 birds eventually, perching and calling back and forth before finally dropping down to the dam edge to drink just on nightfall.

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Minutes of AWSRG 2017 AGM

Our workshop at the Pilliga concluded with an AGM, minutes of which can be accessed here (pdf):
Minutes 2017 AGM of the AWSRG