Thrush Hollow Soundscape

I’m gradually learning to listen differently, to hear a depth of music in nature that has eluded me in the past.

photo of Foothills Parkway sign by Brian StansburyI well remember the spring of 2000 and my trip to the Smoky Mountains. On the morning of May 18, I left Gatlinburg TN and drove north on the Foothills Parkway. Around 6 am, near the crest of a mountain, I parked at the side of the road and walked down a steep hill into a ravine. I heard a Wood Thrush singing on the opposite hillside, so I quickly set up my soundscape mike, placing it twenty feet or so from a small brook. I started my recorder and began listening through my headphones.

Another Wood Thrush soon appeared and the two began singing back-and-forth. They were perhaps several hundred feet away and I distinctly remember getting impatient with them, wishing they would come closer, wanting them to be louder and more distinct. “Please come nearer, please come nearer” was my inner mantra. I ran my recorder for about ten minutes and they never did come any closer. So I got up and left, not entirely happy with the result:

Two Wood Thrushes singing in a steep ravine, 5:58am, 18 May 2000, along Foothills Parkway north of Gatlinburg, TN. Recorded by Lang Elliott.

photo of Lang ElliottNow I listen with a totally different mind, with completely different ears. I am so very grateful the two thrushes did not come closer. Now I’m taken by the gentle babbling of the brook and the restful, ethereal quality of the reverberant thrush songs, echoing off the slopes of the ravine. I take pleasure in the Scarlet Tanager singing it’s burry song way off in the distance during much of the recording. I am able to relax into this recording and just be there with it . . . in my bedroom, in my studio, wherever . . . thoroughly enjoying the pleasant and healing mix of sounds. Listening to this soundscape transports me into the cool mountains and refreshes my spirit, reminding me once again of the coming of spring.


  1. I hear Wood Thrushes, a Common Yellowthroat, a Scarlet Tanager, and possibly a Chipping Sparrow. I was once in the Great Smoky Mountains but it was before I was a birder, before I knew what a Wood Thrush sounded like, a Scarlet Tanager sounded like, or a Chipping Sparrow sounded like.

  2. What a wonderfully ethereal sound. I too agree that the thrushes are just the right distance. Too much closer and they would have over powered the sense of place that exists here.

  3. Such a beautiful site and wonderful place to sit and just listen, it’s been easy to jump from sound to sound out of curiosity and enjoyment. I’m an intern in a classroom of three to six year olds and I was looking for a way to bring night time sounds into the environment and found your book online. I was surprised to find that you are located here in Ithaca! I would love to hear any ideas you may have on exposing the children to sounds of the night.

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