Listen to These Amazing Sounds of Lost Places and Animals Within Them

Wetzel ( Corryn Wetzel )
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Smithsonian Magazine, United States 
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Prolific audio naturalist Martyn Stewart has released a free collection of his remarkable recordings before his passing

Martyn Stewart has always listened closely to the world around him. As a young boy, he explored the wild places near his childhood home in Birmingham, England, collecting insects, amphibians and other small animals in glass jars. Stewart recalls puncturing the jars’ tin lids, holding each up to his ear to hear the delicate sounds the creature made. Stewart soon borrowed a microphone from his teenage brother, an aspiring musician, and began documenting what he heard. “I used to go through my little world and record the sounds of nature,” says Stewart. “I believe the first bird that I recorded when I was 11 was the Eurasian blackbird.”

Now in his 60s, Stewart has amassed a collection of more than 30,000 hours of material, including birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and entire soundscapes. The full-time audio naturalist started selling sounds from his personal collection after college, and his recordings have since been used in more than 150 films and numerous podcasts and nature documentaries. At least four of the species Stewart has recorded are now extinct in the wild, including the Panamanian golden frog and northern white rhinoceros. He estimates that two-thirds of his library captures soundscapes that have since been damaged or lost. The public can now access more than 200 of those sounds, a gift from Stewart meant to inspire conservation as he contemplates his passing.

Stewart, who was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer last year, recently released a free collection of albums in partnership with Apple Music's Platoon Record label. The project, called Martyn Stewart's Listening Planet, is both a celebration Stewart’s contributions to the field of audio naturalism and his final effort to call attention to vulnerable places and animals. “There is going to be this huge audience listening to these gorgeous sounds, and it gives a voice for the animals,” says Stewart. 
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