The entire drama of human life — its ten thousand joys, its ten thousand sorrows — plays out on the outermost skin of our fragile planetary home. But just beneath that thin surface, beyond the reach of ordinary sensory perception, lies another world of extraordinary power and beauty, where an altogether different kind of natural drama unfolds, at scales of time and space entirely unfamiliar to surface dwellers.
“One Week on Earth” is an experimental podcast that invites you to listen in on this remarkable subterranean universe: the natural seismic sounds of planet Earth.
Over the next few months, I plan to post here a weekly five-and-a-half-minute program that contains a continuous week of Earth sound, as recorded by an underground seismometer near my studio in coastal Maine in the northeastern United States.
To make the Earth’s very low-frequency sounds audible, I have speeded up these recordings by a factor of 1,800, transposing the sounds by almost 11 octaves to within the range of human audibility. As each second ticks by, you’ll hear exactly one-half hour of real Earth time.
These recordings are not compositions or “interpretations” of the Earth’s sounds. Apart from the time-acceleration and pitch-shifting, I have avoided heavy processing and manipulation of the recordings, so as to give the listener a faithful impression of the natural seismic and acoustic qualities of the planet. The echo and reverberation you hear is generated by the Earth itself, the result of seismic waves reflecting, refracting, and scattering thousands of miles through the planetary interior, in much the same way that footsteps echo within the vast spaces of a gothic cathedral.
Every sound you hear in these recordings is significant. Every whoop, whoosh, pop, snap, or bang reflects the movement of the ground at the recording site from causes near and far: winds sweeping through the neighboring tall spruce and pine trees; surf on the nearby ocean shore; deep ocean storm waves interacting with the continental shelf far offshore; earthquakes from around the world. Some of these events you will have read about in the week’s news; others will have gone largely unnoticed. All of them have something of value to teach us.
Listen well. I welcome your thoughtful comments.