Acoustic Health

Evaluating and defining the acoustic health of an environment is relatively subjective.  There is no specific scientific method to complete this task.  While there are systems used to classify the characteristics, and thereby the acoustic-state of an environment, labeling an area “healthy” is open to interpretation.

I did not have the equipment (sound-pressure meter, specialized weatherproof/waterproof microphones, a weather-meter station, large-portable power supplies, etc.) to establish the acoustic health of Best Woods with scientific precision.  Thus, to complete this task I drew upon work by soundscape theorists and scientists Barry Truax, Bernie Krause, and Davyd Betchkal.  In doing so, I combined theoretical concepts with scientific methods to create an empirical system used to define the health of Best Woods.

Three components from Barry Traux’s work provide the framework for the system:

1) Variety

2) Complexity

3) Balance 

Does Best Woods contain sounds that are varied, complex, and in balance? Using the above variables to answer this question made it possible to examine the soundscape of Best Woods and determine its “health.”

Additionally, Bernie Krause’s “niche hypothesis,” which posits that in acoustically healthy systems each sound occupies distinct frequencies that are audible and do not mask each other, was used to inform the variables above .

Finally, the general principles and methods I learned from Davyd Betchkal, when studying with him in Denali National Park, about how to perform audibility analysis were employed to analyze the acoustic structure of Best Woods.