The way it used to be, you’d be sitting around, when suddenly you remembered you had to have that work or school project done where you needed to hear what a lemur sounds like, and you were shit out of luck because you live in a lemur-free neighborhood and your friend’s pet lemur died a couple of weeks ago. These days you don’t even have to waste three minutes dredging the Internet river to find it.
Cornell University, no stranger to academic firsts, has now amassed the world’s largest digital natural sound archive, currently housed at www.MacaulayLibrary.org. Every single archived analog recording from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology collection, started in 1929 by Lab founder Arthur Allen, has been ushered into the digital era for all the world to hear.
Mike Webster, director of the Macaulay Library, said:
Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world. Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.
More than 150,000 digital recordings are now in the archive, the product of 12 years of toiling. That totals out to over 7,513 hours of audio, 10 terabytes of data. It would take you 313 days of continuous listening to hear all the files from end to end. Which wouldn’t bode well when the Bighorn Sheep show up and you start counting them.
Around 9,000 species are included, with a noticeable absence of mimes. It being an Ornithology lab, there is an abundance of bird sounds for birdwatchers to get the aural studies going. But there are many other kinds of animals as well, such as hyenas, cheetahs, whales, tortoises, and kangaroos. Sadly, there don’t appear to be any llamas present, but that may not last much longer.
With this chunk of work now behind them, the archivists are interested in building up from this huge foundation, encouraging both amateurs and professionals to send in their own animal recordings, which will be put into the collection after verification. So, whenever they do that long-awaited Turner and Hooch sequel and the dog messes up his lines, it won’t be so hard for the crew to get the correct dog sounds in ADR during post-production.