Exploring LUCID’s Nature Soundscapes on World Listening Day
If you search “soundscape” on any major streaming platform, you’ll likely find a multitude of generated playlists, songs and albums crafted with ambient, nature, sleep, study or cinematic soundscapes. Soundscapes refer to non-lyrical sounds that arise from an immersive environment that can be perceived by humans. They’re rising in recognition and popularity for their ability to sonically transport listeners to a given environment.
If you’ve listened to a musical composition which includes soundscapes, it may have added to your experience, but how is it so different from any other song? Can soundscapes in music alter the way listeners perceive emotions, memories, and associations?
Intentionally capturing soundscapes was originally popularized by Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer, one of the founders of the Acoustic Ecology movement and director of the World Soundscape Project. In his honour, July 18 annually marks World Listening Day, which encourages people to listen to the sounds of nature around them, learn more about field recording, and take time to appreciate and understand soundscapes.
Do you know how nature soundscapes are recorded? At LUCID, we capture sounds with a microphone that we call “The Ear” - a binaural microphone which is shaped like a human ear, to accurately replicate how we naturally hear sound. You may recognize them from ASMR videos, which we did our own version of back in 2020.
Now, many people own 3Dio microphones like ours, but LUCID’s ear has also traveled around the world. “The Ear” has traveled with our music team across Ireland, Costa Rica, and Canada to capture the sounds of different natural landscapes - including the forest in Banff, the beaches of Jaco, and the valleys of Ireland. That’s a pretty well-traveled Ear!
It’s quite fitting then, that this year’s World Listening Day theme is Listening Across Boundaries. As the world starts becoming more accustomed to social interaction and travel as pandemic restrictions ease up, dismantling both the visible and invisible boundaries separating humans has become a priority. While international travel may not be in everyone’s upcoming three month plan, what if you could travel around the world through sound?
Binaural microphones allow sound to be captured from both directions, much like how humans would perceive it with the natural ear. This method of recording then creates an immersive sonic experience, wherein the listener can feel like they’re in the same environment as the sounds they are hearing.
“3D audio mixes mimic the sonic environment that is perceived naturally by the left and right ears. Through the use of binaural audio techniques, sound engineers are able to closely replicate the way humans hear,” explains Aaron Labbé, LUCID’s CTO who also has an extensive background in sound engineering. “When playing a binaural recording, the listener can hear the sounds move around their head and pinpoint their locations. Binaural recording effectively creates a 3D landscape and sounds as if the listener is standing in the recorded environment. This listening experience results in a highly engaging experience with high levels of ‘State Absorption’.”
State Absorption refers to the state when one is completely engaged and has their full attention on a single mental or physical activity. In Ballew and Omoto (2018) they found that when participants underwent experiences in nature, they not only achieved higher states of absorption, but also experienced correlated emotions of awe and positivity.
“Using immersive and realistic nature experiences, LUCID provides users with a tool to achieve states of absorption and to clear the mind,” Aaron continues.
Absorption is a key component of music therapy that music therapists are actively trying to help their clients reach. To the existing therapeutic music experience, LUCID then adds immersive nature soundscapes to enhance absorption. With the help of technology like binaural microphones and high-res audio, our nature soundscapes can help actively transport an individual into a different mental state.
World Listening Day celebrates aspects of hearing, sound and the natural environment. Soundscapes have heralded a whole new world of musical compositions which can then be leveraged in a multitude of ways. The next time you put on your headphones and need an escape, why not try tuning into some LUCID soundscapes, closing your eyes and letting the binaural sounds immerse you?