August 25, 2014

A New Resource That ‘Sounds’ Amazing: “World’s Largest Natural Sound Archive Now Fully Digital and Online”

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Wow, over 150,000 digitized recordings (10 terabytes of data) from over 9,000 species.

From Cornell University:

In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” says audio curator Greg Budney, describing a major milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

All archived analog recordings in the collection, going back to 1929, have now been digitized and can be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org.

[Clip]

It took archivists a dozen years to complete the monumental task. The collection contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. There’s an emphasis on birds, but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more.

“Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world,” explained Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. “Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.”

The recordings are used by researchers studying many questions, as well as by birders trying to fine-tune their sound ID skills. The recordings are also used in museum exhibits, movies and commercial products such as smartphone apps.

Note: To the right of the search box in the Macaulay Library homepage is a box with a + sign. Click to search by a number of fields including location, behavior, and limit to audio or video.

You can also browse the database by taxonomy.

Search help available here.

Some Samples Sounds From the Archive

Earliest recording: Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen was a pioneer in sound recording. On a spring day in 1929 he recorded this Song Sparrow sounding much as they do today.

Youngest bird: This clip from 1966 records the sounds of an Ostrich chick while it is still inside the egg—and the researchers as they watch.

Liveliest wake-up call: A dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia is bursting at the seams with warbles, squeals, whistles, booms, and hoots.

Best candidate to appear on a John Coltrane record: The indri, a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clarinet.

Most spines tingled: The incomparable voice of a Common Loon on an Adirondacks lake in 1992.

Most likely to be mistaken for aliens arriving: Birds-of-paradise make some amazing sounds—here’s the UFO-sound of a Curl-crested Manucode in New Guinea.

Most erratic construction project: the staccato hammering sounds of a walrus under water

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.