• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Silent Night

Air Date: Week of

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Host Steve Curwood talks with Peter Acker about recording sounds in an airplane vacant environment. After the attacks on September 11th, the Federal Aviation Administration banned all commercial air traffic for a few days.


CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. After the events of September 11th, the Federal Aviation Administration took the unprecedented step of grounding all commercial air flights in the United States. The effect was dramatic on and off the planet. Crew members aboard the international space station noted how different the Earth looked without the usual contrails of jet vapor criss-crossing the atmosphere like a huge spider web. And it was quieter, too.

One man who noticed joins me now from his studio in Northampton, Massachusetts. Peter Acker is a professional audio recordist who specializes in natural sound preservation. He was vacationing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts on September 11th and decided to take advantage of the relatively silent night.

ACKER: It felt strange. I remember sitting at Herring Cove Beach and looking out into the night sky. And, in my experience of the Cape is, every few seconds, if not at least once a minute, you see, if not hear, a plane. On one hand, it was very calming. On the other hand, it was kind of eerie.

CURWOOD: Relatively speaking, just how quiet is it without all those planes flying around?

ACKER: Well, it's noticeable. I mean a jet, you know, after it passes overhead, you can still hear a jet for twenty, thirty miles beyond.

CURWOOD: So, what exactly did you record?

ACKER: The first piece that I recorded was a cricket in the midst of a wind. And, for me, as I was listening to this, it sort of underscored this feeling of, I don't know, desolation, of remoteness, of barrenness.


ACKER: The next morning, I went to Pammet Road Beach and recorded the sound of surf and wind. And, in this particular instance, I placed the microphone, actually, off the tripod in the sand amidst some grasses, tall grasses.


CURWOOD: It's a deep, powerful sound with those little, delicate scratchings there.

ACKER: Exactly. I just have to say how ironic it is that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to give us a taste of what we're missing. When you remove the over-flights, you get a taste of, really, the voice of the planet.

CURWOOD: Peter Acker is a professional sound recordist and he spoke with us from his studio in Northampton, Massachusetts. Thank you.

ACKER: Thanks, Steve.



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth