Take a moment and turn your phone onto airplane mode, your radio and television to power off, sit down, close your eyes, and just listen. What do you hear? Is it the hum of your refrigerator or the flow of air from your air conditioner? Can you even hear your own heartbeat? What other sounds do you hear? All of those noises that were just audible to you are what professionals call ‘natural sound’. They are the sounds that are naturally present to a certain room or place. It’s the sound that is unique to a specific location. They are the sounds that make that place different from that of a space a few feet away.
On a backpacking trip a few years ago, I was challenged to sit in the middle of a mountain rage for two hours in utter solitude and silence and just be. During the course of those two hours I heard many sounds; all of which were completely natural and unique to that area. I heard a series of birds singing, leaves falling, ice melting, water rushing, squirrels chasing, and wind blowing. All of these sounds put together created a mood and tone for that particular location in the wild. Through that natural sound I was able to truly feel the location I was in.
I would like to challenge you to begin to recognize the natural sound around you everyday. Whether you’re walking, driving, or taking some other sort of transportation, your commute to your place of work or education is a perfect time to observe the sounds around you. Chances are, you will hear something you’ve never heard before and, in turn, gain a new perspective of your surroundings. Regardless if the new sounds had a positive or negative effect on your perspective, the natural sounds you experienced will help you to form a fuller understanding of the setting and maybe even spark your interest in learning more about a specific noise.
Journalists today use natural sound to create a richer, more organic story. They add in the sound of the rain falling or the crowd talking to make their audience feel like they were actually at the particular place. This technique enriches our understanding of what is being reported about. So the next time you listen to a news report, notice how the sounds in the background of the piece make the story come to life just as your walk to school or work will when you begin to notice the little things.