logo

The Entire World is a Family

- Maha Upanishad


image

Environment

Jun 05, 2017

The Sound of Silence: Film ‘Being Hear’ Turns Up the Volume of Nature

When it comes to preserving nature, the United States is in a scary place right now.

WRITTEN BY

Alyssa Fowler

However, the continuous work of world-renowned sound recordist and acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton has inspired two filmmakers to head into Olympic National Park, appreciate silence and ask themselves—and everyone who watches the ‘Being Hear’ film—what purpose does nature serve?

This is the time to be alive. This is when we will make the big decision.
Will we, or will we not fall back in love with planet earth.

Emmy-award winner Gordon Hempton has spent the last three decades traveling around the world, searching and advocating for silence—not the absence of sound, but the absence of human caused noise. His life’s work has appeared in films, soundtracks and video games, but has transcended far beyond that, touching and inspiring many to recognize his ‘silence activism’ through a film called ‘Being Hear’.

Without hesitation, two friends and filmmakers, Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen knew: “We’ve got to make a film about this guy.”

Being Hear: Teaser from Palmer Morse on Vimeo.

Palmer and Matthew met during their time studying film, Palmer being interested in cinematography and directing, while Matt being interested in sound. After having heard about Gordon Hempton’s work, Matt was able to spend some time learning from and being mentored by Gordon.

I remember Matt coming back after spending that time with Gordon and learning about nature’s sounds. These two loves: nature and sound.” Palmer told The Outdoor Journal in an interview. “Fast forward 4 years later and we made the film. We took a trip out together, I got to meet Gordon and spend time with him and in turn, learned a lot from him and that experience.”

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

It turned out to be an experience that would also touch and resonate with a large audience as Being Hear became Official Selections at Banff Mountain Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, International Wildlife Film Festival, and many more.

It has also given its viewers something unexpected along the way—not to mention relief from a sentiment and an overused ‘c-word’ that we at The Outdoor Journal have banished from our vocabulary when speaking about nature.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is really about action, ‘conquering’ the highest mountains and doing it faster than anyone else,” says Matt. “People almost took an audible breath when Being Here started to play. It’s not about this ‘conquer nature’ attitude, it’s really about appreciating our place in nature and how interconnected with it we really are. Being in nature and seeking silence and just being able to sit there by yourself really allows you to ask yourself questions and think in a way that you’re not able to when you go to work and grocery shopping. We keep bringing up this word meditative, but I think it’s really about being able to engage in metacognition and think about the world and what your place is.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While Palmer was going into this concept fresh and without preconceived notions or expectations, Matt was already “biased and loved it.”  That’s why he knew that they wouldn’t need the type of meticulous planning that normally goes into making documentaries—by simply arriving at Gordon’s front door, he was sure they would come away with something powerful.

“He’s very well spoken. We’ve had a lot of people asking, ‘who wrote the piece that he narrated in the film?’, but that’s just how his brain works. That’s how he speaks in everyday life—these beautifully put together thoughts. So I knew that if we went out there and just put a camera in front of him, we would come out with something really, really interesting. And we were lucky that happened.”

The raw clip of Gordon simply sitting in the forest and speaking is nearly 2 hours long. Not exactly easy to condense down into a 10-minute video, both digestible for our fast-paced world and at the same time effective, but they did just that. This while introducing a concept that is rarely on people’s radar—even those actively aware of how we affect our planet.

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

Speaking on the rarity of our appreciation of sound, Palmer says, “This is just my personal opinion, but when we talk about specifically environmental issues, a lot of the environmental crises that we have, climate change, etc., most of the rhetoric is rooted in what we see and what we deem as ugly, and a lot of the health risks associated with such. Listening, sound and audio, are not discussed. One aspect I would take away from the film is that sound is important. Listening is a really good indicator to figure out if an ecosystem is unhealthy, if an environment is not as it should be. Obviously if you’re going for a hike in Hawaii, it’s beautiful, but then you hear a big highway in the background. You can imagine how that is affecting any species in that area. So although what we see on the surface might seem beautiful and okay, there are a lot more layers and complexity to it.”

Although we’re always behind those sweating to keep national parks beautiful, the relevance of sound is something we don’t think about enough.

Both Matt and Palmer were pleased to notice that after watching the film, people appeared to really understand and appreciate the importance of sound, “and not only listening as a physical thing, but as a metaphorical thing as well. Gordon says, which is one of my favourite lines in the film: ‘be like the wave, accommodate all things’. And if you think about that phrase, in a few different ways, it really changes how you move about the world.”

The real issue is that the option of actually being able to go outside and find places to do so, to just listen, is something we have less and less of.

Olympic National Park. Photo courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

“The ability to go into nature and listen to those sounds as they appear is disappearing because the level of noise pollution is slowly increasing, due to population density and transportation, etc.,” says Palmer.

Needless to say, Matt agrees:

“We, in the United States, currently have a president who does not care about the environment. I am pretty biased, but every action that our government has taken in the past few months has been anti-preserving of nature. And that is very scary for a lot of us, regardless if you voted for him or not. Public lands are being auctioned off, the EPA is being cut. We are in a very scary place when it comes to preserving nature right now.”

Not to mention the most recent events of President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

“My ultimate question with this film is what are our national parks for? And it’s not a question we can easily answer. I’m a firm believer that the National Parks in the United States are one of the greatest asset we have a country. There is so much natural beauty, and what do these serve? Being Hear is really just trying to get people to ask themselves that question: what are our natural spaces for?”

These extremely important, but difficult questions have continued to trouble, inspire the filmmakers in their future projects. We at The Outdoor Journal have promised to keep our discretion about their next endeavour, but will have updates with their latest plans as soon as possible.

Head to the Being Hear website for more information about the film and how you can see the full feature. For more on Gordon Hempton, visit his website, The Sound Tracker.

Feature image: Olympic National Park, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

Continue Reading

image

Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

image

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

loadContinue readingLess Reading

Recent Articles



Steph Davis: Dreaming of Flying

What drives Steph, to free solo a mountain with nothing but her hands and feet, before base jumping? “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear."

The Lilayi Elephant Nursery: The Story of One Orphan, and 11 Years of Conservation.

The Orphanage provides a sanctuary for defenceless calves, who are the victims of poaching, human conflict or, occasionally, natural abandonment. The catalyst was a single elephant called Chamilandu.

Film Review: Ode to Muir. A Snowboarding Movie, and an Important Covert Education

Lost in amazing scenery, and one of outdoor's great personalities. Prepare to learn, even if you won’t realize it’s happening.

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other