Thanks to the work of Bernie Krause and R. Murray Schafer we have a full understanding and definition of the word soundscape.

These two mens’ pioneering theoretical and practical studies have paved the way for artists, musicians, film makers, environmentalists and field sound recordists to truly understand the complexities of the soundscape.


Soundcape Theory

A soundscape is a sound or a combination of sounds that forms or arises from an environment.


There are three main elements that form the soundscape:


Keynote Sounds

This is from musical terminology that identifies the key of a piece. They are created by nature: wind, water, forests, plains, birds, insects, animals. In many urban areas, the relentless noise of the traffic has become the keynote sound.


Sound Signals

These are foreground sounds and they are listened to consciously; examples include warning devices, bells, whistles, horns, sirens, etc.



This is derived from the term “landmark”. A soundmark is a sound which is unique to an area.


These fundamental elements have been further defined as to their essential sources:



Geo (earth), this refers to the soundscape sources that are generated by non-biological natural sources such as wind in the trees, water in a stream or waves at the ocean, and earth movement, the first sounds heard on earth by any sound-sentient organism.


Bio (life) and the suffix for sound, this refers to all of the non-human soundscape sources of sound.



Anthro (gr. human), this refers to all of the sound signatures created by humans.


Soundscapes and Noise Pollution

Soundscape approach to noise control. Whereas acoustics tends to rely on lab measurements and individual acoustic characteristics of cars and the like, soundscape takes a different approach. Inspired by John Cage’s ideas of the whole world as composition, soundscape researchers investigate people’s attitudes to soundscapes as a whole rather than individual aspects and look at how the entire environment can be changed to be more pleasing to the ear.

It has been suggested that people’s opportunity to access quiet, natural places in urban areas can be enhanced by improving the ecological quality of urban green spaces through targeted planning and design and that in turn has psychological benefits.

Finally, the main image is from the Swiss artist Zimoun who has centered this piece around soundscapes.