Peter Cusack

The Acoustics of the Nighttime Forest, Thetford, UK
The Thetford Forest is about 100km north of London in Eastern England. It is a large area of mostly pine where the trees are planted in regular arrays. This gives an amazingly reverberant acoustic, where sounds echo from the forest edges as if from walls. The area has become a special habitat for wildlife. The churring sound in this recording is made by birds – the Nightjar. It is Roe Deer that are barking.

Tastubek thunder storm
Dariga, Tastubek
This recording is from Tastubek village next to the North Aral Sea, Kazakhstan.
In these days of climate change the story of the Aral Sea is important. It shows that even major environmental damage can be repaired given proper resources and political commitment. Sixty years ago the Aral Sea in Central Asia was the planet’s fourth largest lake. Today it has almost disappeared; a victim of vast Soviet irrigation schemes that divert too much water from its source rivers far upstream. It is one of the 20th century’s largest, and least known, environmental disasters. The consequences have been extremely wide: the very productive Aral fishing industry collapsed forcing many people to emigrate for work elsewhere; salt dust from the dry sea bed blows thousands of kilometers causing salinization of agricultural land and effecting human health; changed weather has meant less rain, more dust storms and higher summer temperatures; wildlife populations are dramatically effected.
However Kazakhstan has recently attempted to restore the North Aral Sea in its territory. This has been amazingly successful. As the North Aral Sea recovers it has been surprising how quickly some environmental changes have reversed. Rainfall is improving and villagers say that this allows vegetation to stay green longer into the summer, softens high temperatures and there is less dust. So this recording documents not only the events of village life – the amazing sound of camels, Dariga’s skipping skills, a lost young goat, an ancient Soviet Ural motorbike in full throttle – but also the return of rain and thunder, pushing back against the dry years. It is a sonic reminder of the interdependence of environmental systems and that decisions about water use (and abuse) made in capital cities far away have potentially far reaching consequences.