NSS Home Page -> Nature Sounds Newsletter -> Winter 1994 -> Tenth Anniversary of the NSS

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Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the NSS
by Paul Matzner, Chair NSS

I would like to thank you all for your support in this tenth anniversary year of the Nature Sounds Society.

The year has been our most important and productive year so far, a busy one devoted to events celebrating our mission and goals as well as hard work devoted to furthering our conservation issue, the preservation of quiet places.

Let me summarize some of our accomplishments:

Tenth Anniversary

We successfully completed an ambitious series of events celebrating our tenth anniversary, including our Annual Field Recording Workshop, another in our series of music and nature sounds concerts and a symposium for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, all centered around the theme of scientific and creative arts uses of nature sounds.

Our Annual Field Recording Workshop in the Sierra was attended by 23 people this year. As usual, the program was excellent, with presentations by composer and recordist Doug Quin, composers Barton and Priscilla McLean, radio producer Catherine Stifter of NPR and our engineer Dan Dugan. The program reflected our commitment to present the latest technical information on nature sound recording, as well as its use for creative projects. As usual, the workshop was much more than the sum of its presentations. It was a colloquium of talented people in many professional fields and the sharing of information between these folks was intense and fruitful. The Society saw this workshop grow after many years into a powerful forum where professionals in all fields of our diverse memberships can meet and share new ideas.

Our symposium titled Nature Sounds: Use in Science and the Creative Arts, presented for the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, brought together a powerful array of speakers and panelists to examine the process of creative inquiry in scientists and artists who use nature sounds for their work. The symposium events included a concert of music and nature sounds presented by Doug Quin which was attended by over 100 scientists from all over western North America, including Canada and Mexico.

Our tenth anniversary events concluded with a gala concert of music and nature sounds at the Oakland Museum, which included the works of Doug Quin, Barton and Priscilla McLean and Guillermo Galindo.

Quiet Places Conservation Issue

This was a pivotal year for the conservation issue, preservation of quiet places. For the first time since the inception of the Aircraft Overflight Study in 1986, concerning effects of aircraft on national parks and wilderness areas, the issue of quiet places conservation is heating up, with hearings proceeding in Washington on aircraft overflights. Discussion so far centers on tour planes and their effect on national parks. The FAA held a hearing on new regulations for altitude limits on tour planes flying over national parks. Comments were invited on a wide range of impacts of aircraft on national parks. Meanwhile, in July, the Subcommittee on Transportation of the House Government Operations Committee met to hold informational hearings on general effects of aircraft overflights. In both of these hearings, the debate was opened for a wider examination of the topic. What is called the ANPRM was circulated before this hearing, asking questions addressing issues including federalism.

One of the most exciting developments this year was a meeting with Dick Hingson, Conservation Chair of Southern California Sierra Club. Dick has been working on the quietude issue and legislation for the last 8 years, unbeknownst to us. Like us, he has found it frustrating, until recently, to find support and interest in the issue. Dick began burning up the fax lines with updates on the quietude issue and other related issues. One of the biggest ones concerned the California Desert Protection Act, the largest conservation measure of the year - designed to protect millions of acres of new wilderness areas and designate a new desert national park in California. Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming introduced an amendment to the Desert Protection Act to preserve, in perpetuity, military air rights over the newly designated areas, which could be interpreted to include all national parks and wilderness areas. This would have set an extremely dangerous precedent. After an anxious week and the strong lobbying of house members by conservation organizations such as Sierra Club and Wilderness Society, this amendment was defeated, giving us our first legislative victory. We expect the military overflight issue to be popping up in many other contexts around the country.

Although we learned about these hearings late in the game, we hustled to get our comments together and submitted them for the record of both hearings. Even though we could not supply a member in DC to testify directly for the NSS this time, we made valuable contacts for future impact. The biggest news culminating the year on the congressional front, the release on October 3 of The Aircraft Overflight Study after 8 years, was far behind its original schedule. This study of the effect of aircraft overflights on national parks and wilderness areas has been the main national legislative focus of the society. Although the timing was atrocious, just before congressional adjournment for elections, and after a long and bitter session, we feel that this will have a major impact when Congress returns. It will create the first opportunity for legislation concerning overflights and we are ready to comment and have the input on behalf of our membership on these national questions. We can be sure that there will be strong attempts to limit the scope of noise controls.

Our concerns in the Society go far beyond tour fights to all threats to natural quiet in the parks and wilderness areas. We are also extremely concerned about smaller, but no less important, grass roots issues that are multiplying around the country. As a result of all of this activity, the Society has constituted a new Conservation Committee to specifically deal with this issue, which will be one of our priorities for the coming year. Please feel free to write us with your ideas and comments. Also see below our plans to communicate more widely by electronic communication through e-mail and the Internet.

New Board Members and Officers

This year has seen a vigorous turnover in our Board of Directors. We said good bye to old members welcomed back some original members and saw new members join the Board. We bid farewell to our Treasurer for the last year and a half, Mark Nichols, and accepted leave requests from our newsletter editor and longtime Board member, Catherine Girardeau, longtime board member Pam Michaels. We welcomed back original Board members Arlyn Christopherson and Bill Gilbert and welcomed new members Susan Alexjander, Amy Hunter and Abby Wasserman. Susan will be our new treasurer. We also welcome board member Mark Goddard, editor of the Member's Preview of this year, as our new newsletter editor.


After a dip in membership last year we are also seeing our membership beginning to grow again. Our year’s goal this year of 100 members has been reached. Our membership potluck at the Oakland Zoo was a success - attracting 28 former members and new members. Please forward names of recommended possible new members so we can send them membership packets. Our membership committee, headed by Bill Gilbert, prepared a new series of membership benefits and premiums which include a free CD by member and internationally known recordist Gordon Hempton from his acclaimed Quiet Places Collection. We thank Gordon heartily for his generous contribution of 180 CD's for the Society's membership drive.

Publicity (Public Information) Releases on NSS

All of the advances of the Society this year have been helped by very good California and national publicity on the NSS. Coverage included an article on sound recording and the Quietude Issue originally published in the San Jose Mercury News and distributed by Knight Ridder newspapers throughout the country. If you have seen this article published in your part of the country, please let us know. We were also contacted by CNN for a newspiece on quietude; this was broadcast nationally and internationally on D-Day. Also, November saw the release of an article by Steve Nadis on quiet places in Omni Magazine. Gordon Hempton informs us that he will be featured on Canadian Radio this month in a piece on quietude.

Electronic Society Project

In order to expand its usefulness to members near and far, the NSS has instituted an electronic communication project. This will proceed in a number of stages to link up the Board and where possible the larger membership by using e-mail and communication over the internet. Next month, we will institute an NSS America On-line account so we can receive e-mail. Furthermore, we are finding on-line resources to help us track the quiet places conservation issue. Articles on quietude and sound archiving published in OMNI magazine which were based on our work, were simultaneously produced in the magazine's on-line counterpart carried by the America On-line (AOL) service. Also offered here on AOL is a bulletin board where people can comment to each other on issues related to articles. In another part of this on-line magazine, the National Parks Conservation Association posted articles on its military aircraft overflights comments in hearings in Washington, D.C.

There is much fertile ground here for us to bring our issues to a wider community, increase membership and more efficiently communicate with members. For the time being, members can communicate on-line with the Society through the following e-mail addresses listed at the end of the article.

Note also the line in the renewal notice for e-mail addresses. For those of you who are not on-line, or who enjoy the quietude of pre-computer technology, have no fear; we will not send anything by electronic mail that is not also sent by regular mail.

Please call Paul Matzner at the California Library of Natural Sounds at 510-238-7482 if you wish additional information on the NSS and electronic communication.

Articles from Winter 1994

  Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the NSS

Ambisonics: The Art Of "Being There"

Editor's Note - Conservation

AAAS Concert

Tenth Annual Field Workshop

The Oakland Museum Concert: Music With Birds, Frogs and Other Creatures

The Greening of the Industry

Nature Sounds Newsletter

NSS Home Page

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