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

Aurora Borealis

Air Date: Week of

The sounds of charged solar particles hitting the atmosphere and the voice of the man who records them, set to a swirly rock n’ roll beat by producer Barrett Golding.


CURWOOD: The northern lights, or aurora borealis, make some of nature's most sublime performances. They're pulsating sheets of white and colored lights streaming down from the heavens above the North Pole. Auroras appear when surges of charged particles from the sun hit the earth's magnetic fields. The particles emit light, and, it turns out, they emit sound as well. But unlike the lights, you need special equipment to hear the sound of the aurora. Steve McGreevy has some of that special equipment. He calls himself a natural radio recordist, and he travels around in a van capturing the sounds of natural phenomena. Steve McGreevy invited producer Barrett Golding to turn these sounds of the aurora borealis into radio. The result is called Sun Song.


McGREEVY: There's just a whole litany of different natural radio sounds to record.


MCGREEVY: Whistlers and growlers and howlers and tweaks.


MCGREEVY: Particles from the sun are hitting earth's magnetic field and generating these noises, probably several thousand miles out in space.


MCGREEVY: It's beautiful. It's primordial. It's Mother Earth singing.


McGREEVY: Space weather.


McGREEVY: And it's wild. Oh, listen to this. Oh, this is beautiful.




McGREEVY: It's Mother Earth singing.


CURWOOD: Sun Song was produced by Barrett Golding with natural radio recordist Steve McGreevy and the sound of the aurora borealis. Music by Jeff Arntsen and the band RacketShip. Sunsong was made possible with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the Hearing Voices series.



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