Why This Sound Artist Recorded Nature And Human Life For 40 Years

Jim Metzner, a pioneer of science radio, looks back on his lifetime of nature recordings, now heading for the Library of Congress.

a black and white photo of an older white man wearing a backwards baseball cap with headphones and a large mic recorder over his shoulder, holds a large microphone with a wind cover on it. he crouches down in a tall field of small flowers. a woman behind him, also crouching down and wearing a hat, holds a small notepad and pen. a third man wearing a hat is in the background, turned away from the camera
Jim Metzner recording bird sounds on Great Gull Island. Credit: Jim Metzner

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Jim Metzner is one of the pioneers of science radio—he’s been making field recordings and sharing them with audiences for more than 40 years. He hosted shows such as “Sounds of Science” in the 1980s, which later grew into “Pulse of the Planet,” a radio show about “the sound of life on Earth.”

Over the decades, Metzner has created an incredible time capsule of soundscapes, and now, his entire collection is going to the Library of Congress. 

John Dankosky talks with Metzner about what he’s learned about the natural world from endless hours of recordings and what we can all learn from listening. Plus, they’ll discuss some of his favorite recordings. To hear the best audio quality, it might be a good idea to use headphones if you can.

Universe of Art is hosted and produced by D. Peterschmidt, who also wrote the music. Charles Bergquist and John Dankosky provided production assistance. Our show art was illustrated by Abelle Hayford. The segment in this episode was originally produced by Rasha Aridi and John Dankosky. Support for Science Friday’s science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Do you have an idea for a future episode of Universe of Art? Send us an email or a voice memo to universe@sciencefriday.com.

Meet the Writer

About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

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