LIS­TEN­ING TO THE WORLD

Berklee pro­fes­sor’s au­dio project maps sounds of na­ture.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - KRISTIN TOUSSAINT @kristin­dakota kristin.toussaint@metro.us

“This is an op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­body to be a mu­si­cian, to click on th­ese pins on the map and lis­ten to sounds of for­est...” Steve Wilkes

If you’ve been camp­ing in the woods or on a hike in the moun­tains, you prob­a­bly re­mem­ber some of the sounds you heard — from birds in the trees to a river rush­ing by to the crunch of the for­est floor un­der your foot.

Steve Wilkes, a pro­fes­sor at Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic, is on a mis­sion to cap­ture all those sounds and more. He is the White Moun­tain Na­tional For­est Artist in Res­i­dence for 2017, and he’s us­ing his time in the iconic New Hamp­shire out­doors to cap­ture every au­di­tory mo­ment that makes that area so special.

With his clips, Wilkes will cre­ate a dig­i­tal au­ral map of the na­tional for­est.

The map will be on a web­site called Hear the­for­est.org, where a page of that site will show a Google Map of the White Moun­tains, pep­pered with red pins.

When you click on a pin, a di­a­logue box will open up and play the recorded sounds from that spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal spot along with text ex­plain­ing what the sound is and why it was recorded.

“A mu­si­cian is any­one who has learned to lis­ten to the world in a mu­si­cal way,” Wilkes said. “This is an op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­body to be a mu­si­cian, to click on th­ese pins on the map and lis­ten to sounds of for­est and hear them as valid as pop mu­sic on the ra­dio.”

The map can also be a way for peo­ple to “visit” the White Moun­tains even if they’re far away, he said.

To get the clips, Wilkes hikes through the woods with all his record­ing gear. Of course, he’s look­ing for the sounds of na­ture, but there’s also an­other side to the din of the wood­land.

Tom Wag­ner, the for­est su­per­vi­sor to the White Moun­tains, wrote a touch­ing email to Wilkes when his res­i­dency was an­nounced, Wilkes said, in which he sug­gested that Wilkes not only cap­ture the noises of na­ture, but also the visi­tors’ re­ac­tions to the stun­ning views or (some­times stren­u­ous) hikes.

“One of things he men­tioned was that they call this for­est ‘the peo­ple’s for­est,’ and hu­man ac­tiv­ity was a re­ally im­por­tant as­pect to keep in mind while you’re try­ing to ac­cu­rately con­vey the sounds of this for­est,” Wilkes said. “My im­pres­sion is that you get a won­der­ful bal­ance of both soli­tude as well as a shared ex­pe­ri­ence with other hu­man be­ings.”

Wilkes will be in the White Moun­tain Na­tional For­est for three weeks, though he plans to sus­tain the project ide­ally to a decade, vis­it­ing every now and then when the res­i­dency is over to cap­ture more au­dio. (If you have a sug­ges­tion for some­thing Wilkes can record, you can sub­mit it at Hearthe for­est.org, and Wilkes will do his best to add it to his au­di­tory to-do list.)

Even­tu­ally, the for­est will find a way into Wilkes’ classes, as well. He teaches per­cus­sion at Berklee and one class in par­tic­u­lar is called con­tem­po­rary elec­tronic per­cus­sion. He can turn his clips from the out­doors into “sam­ples” that will be played through the elec­tronic drums.

“Maybe we’ll cre­ate a mini orches­tra that plays noth­ing but the sounds of the White Moun­tain Na­tional For­est,” he said.

GINNY FORD­HAM

BERKLEE.EDU

Wilkes is cap­tur­ing the sounds of the White Moun­tain Na­tional For­est to cre­ate an au­ral map.

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