Sounds of Nature: the connection between music and the outdoors

The connection between music and nature is innate in all humans worldwide. Both are profoundly tied to our emotions, having the ability to take us from chaos to calm just by taking a walk in the woods and hearing the natural symphony found just outside our door.

For thousands of years philosophers have written about the “potent cosmic force capable of expanding human intelligence and enhancing communication with the non-human world.” (1) It has been a common belief that nature’s music is connected to our capacity for wisdom and inspiration. 

When we get bogged down in our inside environments, we can become unaware of natural sounds. For example, the sound of a bird singing is replaced by the hum of an air conditioner. This creates a disconnection with the natural world and can often result in dis-ease. 

Music can help make that connection once again. If you don’t have time to get outside as often as you like, a video of beautiful outdoor scenery and sounds of nature can help calm you. 

Nature and music have physical, emotional, and mental effects on the human psyche. They are both critical to human life.

Benefit of Music

Music brings us pleasure. It is linked to dopamine release, which regulates mood, and provides an endorphin rush, which makes us feel good. This is especially true when we are the ones making the music.

Music can bring powerful emotions and feelings. Ever get goosebumps when listening to a live performance? Ever turn on a particular genre of music to demand a change in your mood or to calm down?

The music of nature can do the same thing and can often be more efficient in providing desired results. 

If you are on an outdoor family activity in a forested area, sit in silence and listen. The sounds of nature calm you. Maybe it’s the sound of rustling leaves. Or the early morning composition of birds calling out to the world. A stream rushing over rocks and past grassy banks can transport you into another world. 

Taking time to be silent in nature has profound health benefits as reported in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2021. Water sounds are shown to be most effective for changing mood and bird sounds are best the lowering stress levels. 

The natural world is full of musical sounds. For example, Humpback whales produce sounds that mimic our musical scales or vice versa. It can be thought of as a symphony with actual composition. Whale songs contain repeating refrains to form melodic rhymes. Birds also use the same rhythmic variations and affects, intervals, and combinations of notes.

If we consider that the natural world communicates with sounds like human music, then it may be safe to say that music was here on earth before humans began to create music.

1 De Woskin, K. (2002). Chinese Philosophy and Aesthetics. In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: East Asia, Vol 7 (ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben). New York, NY: Routledge.

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