Flores Island, Azores
12’, 2021

Captured in Flores, Azores most-western island and UNESCO Biosphere reserve, this soundscape interrogates the existence, meanings and imaginaries of conservation areas through human experiences. The piece does so by listening to the encounters and frictions between tourists, the ethnographer/author, and non-humans in one “natural” heritage site.

The first 5/6 minutes of this soundscape account essentially for the biophonies and geophonies between Caldeira Funda and Caldeira Rasa, a “natural” heritage site in Flores island (39°24’30.8″N 31°13’18.9″W, picture attached). Unidentified birds, my own breathe, flies and seagulls, the sea at a distance, the wind, a storm in the horizon, a pick-up loaded with cows that suddenly traverses such sonic environment, as well as other inaudible, undisclosed, perhaps otherworldly sounds, constitute the first part of this macro-cosmic composition.

Then, three vans loaded with some 30 tourists bring a set of anthrophonies (engines, mechanic doors, photo camera clicks, noises from cookie packs, small talk) that gradually muffle the “natural” symphony I was recording.

“— Those white spots are the birds that he is listening to (…)”

“— He is recording those birds!?” (…) “— Migratory birds?” (…)

“— He is trying to listen to the animals but we are being noisy!”

My presence triggers a set of considerations related to what could be heard in that geography. Had they visited this site to hear the birds they did not allow to be heard? What one hears is related to what one believes should be heard, as well as what one thinks about the nature of sounds — be them voices, birds (migratory and otherwise), if not the very “nature” (cf. Helmreich 2015).

Payne et al (2009) defined soundscape as the “totality of all sounds within a location with an emphasis in the relationship between individual’s or society’s perception of, understanding of and interaction with the sonic environment”. Those white spots are birds  therefore interrogates the extent to which bio-, geo- and anthrophonies are part and parcel of the ecological acoustics of conservation places as well as the (im)possibilities of a shared (sonic) universe.


- Helmreich S (2016). Sounding the limits of life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond. Princeton University Press

- Payne SR, Davies WJ, Adams MD (2009) Research into the practical policy applications of soundscapes concepts and techniques in urban areas. DEFRA report NANR200, June 2009.