BASEbot 004 report – Gordon Hempton, the Sound Tracker

On Friday April 17th 2009 we were honored to host listener, recordist and self-avowed acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton – the Sound Tracker – for a BASEbot listening salon.

Gordon is on tour with his new book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World co-written with John Grossman and published by Simon and Schuster.  Gordon spoke at length about his journey into becoming an outspoken advocate of natural quiet, from following in the footsteps of John Muir to creating the One Square Inch of Silence project in the Olympic National Forest.

We heard some wonderful recordings, notably a beautiful coyote duet recorded in Gordon’s backyard and an unearthly Sage Grouse mating ritual.  You can listen for yourself in our podcast.

We discussed the act of recording as a state of active and still receptivity – akin to meditation in many ways – and the physical and mental discipline required.  The ways in which the recordist’s sphere of awareness expands to include more and more of the world around – the margins, the periphery – and the things you notice while in that state to which you’d otherwise be oblivious.

After, I find myself thinking of how our culture has so reduced the likelihood of entering that state, a state any other animal probably spends a good deal of time: simply observing.  Which ties back to the idea we discussed last summer with the folks from NYSAE of listening itself as a potentially radical act amidst industrialized consumer society.  To simply quiet onesself and listen.

The event was our most conversational salon to-date – a great success.  Thanks to Gordon for coming, to Aaron for inviting him, and to Dan and Sharon for hosting us in their home – and just before the big NAB conference at that.

-Jeremiah Moore, San Francisco 2009

Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy Award-winning sound recordist who has provided audio services to Microsoft, Discovery, National Public Radio, and other organizations, and who has been profiled by major media including CBS News Sunday Morning, NPR, and People. He lives in Joyce, Washington.

Links – website dedicated to the One Square Inch of Silence project – Links for buying the book – Gordon Hempton’s site, where you can buy his recordings


During discussion at the meeting, a couple of ideas came up for possible future events:

  • A technical salon in which we DO focus on gear and techinique for once, topics being things like field recording technique, fieldwork habits and ideas, recorders, microphones, windscreens, editing technology etc.  Perhaps we could work with the Nature Sounds Society on a DIY Microphone Windscreen workshop.
  • A conversational BASEbot salon organized around, for lack of a better term, “the zen of recording.”

Anyone interested in the above, please chime in via email or the mailing list.