The Listeners

Peter White mixes his own experiences as a blind man reliant on his acute sense of listening with three other men who also listen for minute signs of life - a heart-murmur consultant, a scientist who tunes into the sound of the universe and a rescue worker who listens for signs of life below collapsed buildings.

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
2003092920040103
01012013021920130221

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover from people who listen for a living, and are trained to interpret the sounds they hear. In the first of two programmes, Julie Ryan a volunteer with the International Rescue Corps, an organisation which specialises in urban search and rescue, explains how listening devices are used to help detect earthquake victims trapped under rubble "It is possibly the most amazing experience." she says, as she describes the process of listening for, and then locating and rescuing victims buried under rubble. Julie describes a process in of training in which the rescuers learn how to listen for something "not normal". Similarly cardiac surgeon Jonathan Pitts Crick listens for the abnormal when he uses a stethoscope to listen to the sounds of human heart. It's the abnormal sounds that can indicate there is something wrong. Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson uses a microphone as his listening device to eavesdrop on the natural world. As he explains, by placing microphones and running long cables back to a hide or recording site, he is able to listen into another world, capturing behaviour and detail which we never normally hear. Such recordings help further our understanding of animal behaviour. "Sound is the most important communication channel underwater" says Acoustic Biologist Katy Payne who began her career studying the evolving songs of Humpback whales, and discovering when and why the songs change. Listening can give us fascinating insights into lives beyond our own. As Katy says, at the end of the series "I suppose for me listening is the most important thing I can do.. I just wish we were as good listeners as elephants are".

Presenter: Patrick Aryee, Producer Sarah Blunt

0102 LAST2013022620130228

In 1984, acoustic biologist Katy Payne visited a zoo where three young elephants had been born. To Katy's surprise she found she could not only hear sounds produced by elephants, but also 'feel' them. In the years following that trip to the zoo, Katy and her colleagues discovered how elephants use very low frequency sounds to communicate over long distances. Katy is one of five people we meet in this programme who all 'listen for living' but more than that, they listen to sounds beyond the range of human hearing, namely, infrasound which is below our human hearing range, or ultrasound which is above our range of hearing. The programme heads down into an underground bunker with Brian Baptie, a seismologist from the British Geological Survey to discover how earthquakes can be recorded, and tunes into sounds from outer spaces with astrophysicist Tim O'Brien. We also hear from wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson how using a bat detector transformed a tranquil evening into a scene of carnage, and from bat ecologist, John Altringham about how the high frequency sounds produced by bats which they use to navigate and hunt, can be used as a conservation tool. Listening is about much more than hearing and can offer us fascinating insights into lives beyond our own. As Katy Payne says at the end of the series "I suppose for me listening is the most important thing I can do.. I just wish we were as good listeners as elephants are".

Presenter Patrick Aryee Producer:Sarah Blunt

02012014080520140811

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover from people who 'listen for a living'. In the first of three fascinating programmes we meet four individuals who all listen to languages and words. Mark Turin is an anthropologist whose work includes the documentation of oral languages. "It's very hard to make sense of a language which you've never heard before if you don't see it written down and don't know where the word breaks are." explains Mark. There are about 7000 languages spoken on earth today and some estimates suggest that 2 languages become extinct every month, so when Mark visited Nepal to study Thangmi; an oral language for which there was no written documentation, he had to really learn to listen to understand words and meaning. Carine Kennedy had to learn a foreign language when at the age of 5 she went to school in England, having been brought up in a French-speaking family. Today she is a Conference Interpreter working in both French and Italian. She describes interpreting as "listening but also understanding what the person is saying. You're almost one step ahead of them". For Baroness Helena Kennedy QC listening "is the activity of hearing combined with the search for meaning or hidden meaning", and in court she "listens hard to what might be beyond what is being said" and describes herself as having "quite good antennae for this". Like Helena, Mark Milton, founder of Education 4 Peace, a Swiss foundation dedicated to advocating and supporting emotional health programmes in schools and sports also traces his ability to listen back to childhood, and he fervently believes we should be teaching children how to listen because of the benefits which it can bring to society "...its an essential value to the human being".

02022014081220140818

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover with people who listen for a living, and have learned to interpret meaning in the sounds they hear. In this, the second of three programmes, the four listeners all listen to sounds which are indicators of health and quality. In the mid-1960's Bernie Krause became involved with early analogue synthesisers and when he and his musician friend Paul Beaver decided to make an album which incorporated natural sounds, Bernie was the one who went out on location to record natural sounds. The experience changed his life, and began to record and archive natural soundscapes. During the past 45 years he has spent listening and recording Bernie has become increasingly aware of how sound is an indicator of the health of a landscape or environment. "Of the 4,500 hours of marine and terrestrial habitats that I have recorded, 50% of those habitats come from now what I call extinct habitats... the habitats are altogether silent or can no longer be heard in their original form". Sound is also an indicator of health when it comes to the human lungs as Dr Nabil Jarad demonstrates when he listens with a stethoscope, and simply tapping a piece of wood provides early stringed musical instrument maker, Roger Rose with the information he needs when choosing and shaping wood for an instrument "Everything about the instrument really affects the sound...from when we start to choose the wood.." Finally, Valentin Amrhein describes what he and his colleagues have learned about the quality of an individual Nightingale by listening to their songs. It appears the nature and number of trills in a song is used by other males and females to determine the fitness and health of the singer.

0203 LAST2014081920140825

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover with four individuals for whom listening is very much the focus of their lives; indeed motivates their working lives. Hildegard Westerkamp is a composer whose compositions are concerned with acoustic ecology and soundscape listening. One of her earliest memories of consciously listening was when her piano teacher " would literally stop me and say listen to what you just played... listen to your touch with the piano". Then when she was a student she attended a lecture by Murray Schafer who founded the World Soundscape project and "literally felt my ears had been opened ". Today Hildegard is part of the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective - a group of people who meet to take part in soundwalks; walks during which participants are asked not to talk but to listen. Acoustic ecologist Phil Morton runs similar walks in Liverpool. The focused listening which happens in these walks can become meditative. Participants not only become more aware of the sounds outside them but also start to listen to the sounds within themselves.

"What drew me was a life centred on listening to God and listening to other people so I'd then be able to devote my life to serving God and to serving the needs of other people" explains Fr. Christopher Jamison on why he become a Benedictine Monk and "listening lies at the foundations of the work of any priest and listening lies at the foundation of the whole monastic way of life ". Listening is also very much the focus of forensic speech analyst Peter French " I'm not listening so much as to what is being said but to how its being said" and in some cases it's what being said in the background behind the speech that is of interest and provides clues as to where a recording is made, as we discover.

030120151222

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover in this new series of 3 programmes. The first programme explores three very different experiences of listening to speech with a poet, a speech dialect coach and Chair of Samaritans. Jan Haydn Rowles is an accent and dialect coach whose interest in dialect began when she noticed how her parents who were born in different counties spoke with different accents; and that the same was true of her and her siblings. Jan not only hears sounds she sees them; "When I listen to a person's voice I don't see it, I hear it" and she offers a fascinating insight into her visual experiences of sound. Katrina Porteus has spent much of her life in County Durham and Northumberland writing about the fishing communities and coastal landscape where she lives. 'A poem begins and ends in listening' she says. For Katrina, listening extends to the sounds of the words; whether they be soft sounds or hard sounds, and beyond the meaning of the words to the rhythm of language and the music of the dialect as we discover. Jenni McCartney is our third listener. She has been working with Samaritans for over 30 years, first as a volunteer and now as Chair. "Listening is absolutely crucial to what we do" she says, Started by Chad Varra in 1953, Samaritans is a charity which provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts, and is available 24 hours a day, every day. At its simplest, Samaritans is about listening. "Every 6 seconds somebody contacts Samaritans". Listening perhaps has never been more important. Producer Sarah Blunt.

030220151229

03022015122920151230 (R4)

Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona's case) and listening to the echoes to hear and "see" their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Wills Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of 'seeing with sound', of creating 'maps' from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteus discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor's case! Producer Sarah Blunt.

03022015122920151230 (R4)

Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona's case) and listening to the echoes to hear and "see" their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Wills Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of 'seeing with sound', of creating 'maps' from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteus discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor's case! Producer Sarah Blunt.

030220151229

Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona's case) and listening to the echoes to hear and "see" their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Wills Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of 'seeing with sound', of creating 'maps' from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteus discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor's case! Producer Sarah Blunt.

030320160105

03032016010520160106 (R4)

A Musician, a Poet and a Quaker share their listening experiences; discuss the difference between hearing and listening and reveal how listening is more than just an aural experience; it's something much deeper motivating their work and their lives. The musician is Dame Evelyn Glennie, whose vision is to teach the world to listen by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. As a result of hearing problems when she was a child, Evelyn learned to 'feel ' sounds, not just hear them. Using different instruments she demonstrates how sounds and reverberations can affect us; emotionally and physically. Katrina Porteous's earliest memory is the sound of a blackbird singing whilst she was in her pram. Since then listening has had a huge influence on her work as a poet; much of her work is about the fishing communities and landscape of County Durham and Northumberland. Like Evelyn, Katrina feels sounds; they are "the heartbeat of a place". On the written page, there is silence between the words of a poem. "If we get it right we can find silence where we can really listen" says Hermione Legg, who has been a Quaker since she was child and regularly attends meetings which are opportunities for a community to come together in worship. There is no creed and much of the meeting is silent. The silence offers an opportunity to listen. Listening is also about communication. "If I'm listened to, I feel I have worth" says Hermione "Why speak if no one's going to listen ... Life would have no meaning without us listening." Producer Sarah Blunt.

03032016010520160106 (R4)

A Musician, a Poet and a Quaker share their listening experiences; discuss the difference between hearing and listening and reveal how listening is more than just an aural experience; it's something much deeper motivating their work and their lives. The musician is Dame Evelyn Glennie, whose vision is to teach the world to listen by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. As a result of hearing problems when she was a child, Evelyn learned to 'feel ' sounds, not just hear them. Using different instruments she demonstrates how sounds and reverberations can affect us; emotionally and physically. Katrina Porteous's earliest memory is the sound of a blackbird singing whilst she was in her pram. Since then listening has had a huge influence on her work as a poet; much of her work is about the fishing communities and landscape of County Durham and Northumberland. Like Evelyn, Katrina feels sounds; they are "the heartbeat of a place". On the written page, there is silence between the words of a poem. "If we get it right we can find silence where we can really listen" says Hermione Legg, who has been a Quaker since she was child and regularly attends meetings which are opportunities for a community to come together in worship. There is no creed and much of the meeting is silent. The silence offers an opportunity to listen. Listening is also about communication. "If I'm listened to, I feel I have worth" says Hermione "Why speak if no one's going to listen ... Life would have no meaning without us listening." Producer Sarah Blunt.