Soundscapes in the Vineyard

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One tends to underestimate the influence and, perhaps, importance of sound in agricultural practice, or even in life in general. Sound constitutes an integral part of the identity of any given piece of nature or any particular piece of land. Like a human fingerprint or DNA, any given piece of landscape, a vineyard for example, has a unique and individual sound profile or sound identity which ultimately distinguishes the piece of land, let’s say the vineyard, in a singular and, quite possibly, unrepeatable way.

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A vineyard in Pollença, for example, has by the particular nature of its ecological, natural and geologic components and constituents, a different composition of sounds, tones, acoustic vibes and bioacoustic signals when compared to a vineyard in Banyalbufar or another one in Santanyí. A vineyard in Mallorca has a different ‘soundprint’ or sound ‘DNA’ from one in La Rioja and a Spanish wine field has a different sound definition from one in France or another one in California. Even a vineyard in Santanyí like ours at Son Alegre has a different sound ‘persona’ from another vineyard just down the road, let’s say, in Cas Concos des Cavaller.

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Some of the sounds in the vineyard us humans can hear, such as animals, the wind, rainfall, thunder or birds, whereas other sounds are not decipherable by the human ear due to their pitch or frequency. The human hearing range is commonly given as 20 to 20,000 Hertz. The frequency of sound pulses of ants, moths or other insects can be as high as 30,000 Hz and thus, can’t be heard by us, whereas the sound frequency of anurans (frogs, toads, amphibians) can be as low as 6 Hz and are equally inaudible to us.

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But there is even sound created or caused by plants, by minerals and other organic, non-animal matter. Trees make a sound and are even said to communicate, as do mycorrhizæ (fungi which grow in association with the roots of a plant). The earth structure in the Lithosphere and further below makes a sound, too. In fact, one might say that there is nothing on Earth, or even nothing in the Universe, which is totally silent and without any sound. Sound defines anything and everything, be we aware of it or not. Human capacity to hear or decipher sound or noise is not the criteria for the existence of acoustic signatures or sound structures or Bioacoustics.

Soundscape ecology is the bio- and geo-acoustic branch of ecology that studies acoustic signatures from whatever source within a landscape (the soundscape). The soundscape of a given region can be viewed as the sum of three separate sound sources: Geophony is the first sound heard on earth. Non-biological in nature, it consists of the effect of wind in trees or grasses, water flowing in a stream, waves at an ocean or lake shoreline, and movement of the earth. Biophony is a term introduced by soundscape ecologist, Bernie Krause, who in 1998, first began to express the soundscape in terms of its acoustic sources. The biophony refers to the collective acoustic signatures generated by all sound-producing organisms in a given habitat at a given moment. It includes vocalizations that are used for conspecific communication in some cases. Anthropophony is another term introduced by Bernie Krause along with colleague, Stuart Gage. It represents human sources from heavily populated urban regions usually contains information that was intentionally produced for communication with a sound receiver. The expression in various combinations of these acoustic features across space and time generate unique soundscapes.

(quoted from Wikipedia, thank you very much)

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Soundscape ecologists seek to investigate the structure of soundscapes, explain how they are generated, and study how organisms interrelate acoustically. A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the structure of soundscapes, particularly elements of biophony. For instance, an ecological theory known as the acoustic adaptation hypothesis predicts that acoustic signals of animals are altered in different physical environments in order to maximize their propagation through the habitat. In addition, acoustic signals from organisms may be under selective pressure to minimize their frequency (pitch) overlap with other auditory features of the environment. This acoustic niche hypothesis is analogous to the classical ecological concept of niche partitioning. It suggests that acoustic signals in the environment should display frequency partitioning as a result of selection acting to maximize the effectiveness of intraspecific communication for different species. Observations of frequency differentiation among insects, birds, and anurans support the acoustic niche hypothesis. Organisms may also partition their vocalization frequencies to avoid overlap with pervasive geophonic sounds. For example, territorial communication in some frog species takes place partially in the high frequency ultrasonic spectrum. This communication method represents an evolutionary adaptation to the frogs’ riparian habitat where running water produces constant low frequency sound. Invasive species that introduce new sounds into soundscapes can disrupt acoustic niche partitioning in native communities, a process known as biophonic invasion. Although adaptation to acoustic niches may explain the frequency structure of soundscapes, spatial variation in sound is likely to be generated by environmental gradients in altitude, latitude, or habitat disturbance. These gradients may alter the relative contributions of biophony, geophony, and anthrophony to the soundscape. For example, when compared with unaltered habitats, regions with high levels of urban land-use are likely to have increased levels of anthrophony and decreased physical and organismal sound sources. Soundscapes typically exhibit temporal patterns, with daily and seasonal cycles being particularly prominent. These patterns are often generated by the communities of organisms that contribute to biophony. For example, birds chorus heavily at dawn and dusk while anurans call primarily at night; the timing of these vocalization events may have evolved to minimize temporal overlap with other elements of the soundscape.

(quoted from Wikipedia, thank you very much)

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Back to Son Alegre and our vineyard. We do not pretend that the soundscapes at Son Alegre make or shape our wine but we are certain that there is an effect of everything upon anything. The biophonic sound spectres and the bioacoustic ‘soundprint’ of our land are unique, distinguished and individual and affect our wines in a very particular and exceptional way, just as our soil does, which is also very singular, as do the meteorological conditions of our land, as do our organic agricultural practises and our biodynamic approach to farming. The sound does not make our wine but, without any question or the slightest doubt, Son Alegre wines would be different if the conditions, acoustic or otherwise, under which they are produced, would be distinct. Our wines are like no other wines, anywhere.

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Omnis est sonus. All is sound.

Note:

The graphic spectrogram illustrations above were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of www.beautifulnow.is and www.soundstudiesblog.com. However, these graphic images do not represent the soundscapes of our land at Son Alegre nor its acoustic DNA. The photographic images were taken by John Hinde on our finca in Santanyí.

Tot és so.

One thought on “Soundscapes in the Vineyard

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