Tap to hear hours of relaxing ambient sound in Environments.
long form nature recordings
In the 1960s and ’70s, an eccentric field recordist named Irv Teibel challenged the very notion of what music could be, using analog tape recorders to capture the sounds of nature. He documented a chorus of birds singing at dawn, storms that ranged from a gentle rain to a howling blizzard, wind passing through forest trees, crashing ocean waves, and the rhythms of urban life in New York City.
Irv Teibel documented a chorus of birds singing at dawn, wind passing through forest trees, ocean waves crashing.
Now more than 12 hours of his recordings have been compiled in an app called Environments, essentially a box set of ambient sound that lives on your iPhone or iPad, ideal for working, relaxing, meditating, or sleeping.
“My father was really interested in the therapeutic nature of these recordings,” says Teibel’s daughter, Jennifer Ballow, president of Syntonic Research, the music label her father founded. “He lived in New York City and he found it difficult to relax and concentrate.”
In the ’60s, Ballow says, Teibel’s recordings first caught on as a series of vinyl records—also released under the Environments name—used by college kids as music to study to. “This was back before mindfulness was the trend it is today,” she added. “So to see apps dedicated to meditation and relaxation be so popular, and now to have Environments out as an app, it just made so much sense.”
Listen to this
Teibel didn’t just record and release a bunch of nature noises. He took his tapes into a studio to edit, layer, and emphasize specific parts of his recordings, essentially making suites of psychoacoustic music that would last 30 minutes or more. (To hear a sample, tap the unmute icon in the video at the top of the story.)
My father was really interested in the therapeutic nature of these recordings.
One track, called “Ultimate Heartbeat,” features the sound of a female athlete’s heart beating. It starts at a slowed 40 beats per minute, then speeds up to about 70 (a normal resting heart rate) before trending back down. He used similar tactics to turn the sounds of a summer cornfield, creaky sailboat, country stream, and open meadow into sonic landscapes.
Explore the landscapes
When you download Environments to your iPhone or iPad, you’re downloading all 22 tracks—so you can listen to the recordings without having to rely on an internet connection.
“The idea that you’re able to summon these sounds anywhere you are is important to us,” says Douglas Mcgowan, an A&R rep at Numero Group—the celebrated reissue label that made the app. “We don’t tell you where to use it—but we do want to make sure it’s there for you whenever you want to take a moment, slow down, and be grounded.”
Teibel didn’t just record and release a bunch of nature noises. He took his tapes into a studio to edit, layer, and emphasize specific parts of his recordings.
Build your own playlist of favorite tracks, or zen out by putting one on an infinite loop. There are no ads, pop-ups, or other cluttered menus. Apart from some simple controls (and, if you’re interested, the history of each track), it’s just you and the universe of sound.
“As much as my dad loved nature,” Ballow says, “he also embraced digital music formats before he passed.
He really just wanted these recordings to be out there as a resource for people more than a statement as an artist. So the idea that Environments is an app now—he absolutely would love it.”