Emergence Magazine

When the Earth Started to Sing

by David G. Haskell

Illustration by Daniel Liévano

This sonic journey written and narrated by David G. Haskell brings us to the beginning of sound and song on planet Earth. The experience is made entirely of tiny trembling waves in air, the fugitive, ephemeral energy that we call sound. Spoken words combined with terrestrial sounds invite our senses and imaginations to go outward into an experience of the living Earth and its history. How did the vast and varied chorus of modern sounds—from forest to oceans to human music—emerge from life’s community? When did the living Earth first start to sing? We invite you on a journey into deep time and deep sound that will open your ears and your imagination.

We recommend that you listen with good headphones if you can. Let your ears experience, explore, and enjoy in an open-ended way.

Writer & narrator

David George Haskell is author of The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, winner of the 2020 Iris Book Award, the 2018 John Burroughs Medal, and named one of the Best Science Books of 2017 by NPR’s Science Friday. His first book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature, was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, and winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature. His latest book is Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution’s Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction. He is a professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Sound design & mixing

Matt Mikkelsen is a sound recordist, audio engineer, and documentary filmmaker. He is co-founder of Spruce Tone Films and executive director of Wilderness Quiet Parks for Quiet Parks International. He’s the co-director of Being Hear, Venture Out, and Water Flows Together.

Additional sound design & music

Jonathan Kawchuk is a field recordist, sound artist, and composer from Canada. Jonathan has scored multiple feature-length films, web series, and video features. His debut album, North, was released in 2015.

Artist

Daniel Liévano is an editorial illustrator and author based in Bogotá, Colombia. He is deeply inspired by semiotics, linguistics, and the meaning of language. Notable clients include The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Penguin Random House, and Radioambulante, and he was recently awarded a Gold Medal from The Society of Illustrators for his first graphic novel, Gravity.

Credits

Written and narrated by David George Haskell
Sound design and mixing by Matt Mikkelsen
Additional sound design, music, and paleo-soundscape reconstruction by Jonathan Kawchuk
Dialogue editing by Cass Medcalf
Produced by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Mammoth-ivory flute by ‎Anna Friederike Potengowski on an instrument made by Wulf Hein
Violin composition and performance by Katherine Lehman

Underwater sound recordings by Ocean Networks Canada

Related Interview
Listening and the Crisis of Inattention

Listening and the Crisis of Inattention

An Interview with David G. Haskell

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee talks with biologist and author David G. Haskell about his latest book, Sounds Wild and Broken: a journey through deep time that traces the evolution of sound. Their conversation touches on the legacies of kinship that are present when we listen, and how deep experiences of beauty can serve as a moral guide for the future.

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