Every now and then we get an enquiry asking this question. The quick answer is: some of our albums are in print on CD, but many are not. Here’s why, and what the options are.

The decline of CDs

A decade or more ago, CD was how we all purchased music, and the only way we could publish our nature recordings. In Australia we had over a thousand retail outlets selling our CDs. But we could see change happening as the internet grew, and digital delivery of music became the norm.

The change happened quite suddenly; our retailers emptied out their CD stock, sold it off cheap, and our national distributor went bankrupt. All within a year. From those thousand retailers, we now have less than half a dozen, and they are all boutique nature shops that each sell only a handful of our titles.

Format Options

…and the transition to digital

Fortunately, we had established our online shop offering not just CDs but digital downloads. We have chosen to offer two formats of digital audio files:

1. mp3 files, which are compressed making them quicker to download, are universally playable on iPods and media players, but sacrifice some audio quality, and

2. flac files; larger files to download, and requiring transcoding for some applications (eg; burning your own CD at home), but containing full CD-quality audio resolution.

We have priced these two digital formats the same. For each album, you will see the option of choosing either flac or mp3, but the CD option will only appear for those titles that remain in print. If the CD option doesn’t appear for that album, it means that we no longer have it available on CD, or quite likely, it is a more recent title that we have never published on CD.

Why digital downloads?

Overwhelmingly, we’ve seen our customers embrace digital downloads in preference to CDs. In the past, we used to receive several CD orders a day through our shop, but that has declined now to only one or two packages being sent out a fortnight.

The advantages of downloadable audio for customers are obvious: it is cheaper, can be accessed almost immediately and without postal delays or hassles. Home audio is also changing, and many of our listeners no longer have CD players.

For us, CDs have always been a big investment in stock manufacture, warehousing, and dispatching. So it’s a liberation not to have all that. But the big advantage of publishing digitally is that we are free of the constraints of the CD medium. We no longer need to restrict ourselves to ‘best seller’ titles, and can expand into offering more specialised or fascinating material. We’ve been able to develop our catalogue from two dozen or so albums, to currently near eighty. And we’ve been able to publish recordings with program lengths beyond the 80 minutes capacity of an audio CD.

Downloading our albums is not that difficult – really!

This all presents a challenge for some listeners who feel left behind and possibly bewildered by the technological changes. Downloading digital audio represents a new way of listening, not just accessing the product itself, but then how to play it.

One of the simplest solutions is to download the audio to your computer, and then burn it to a CDR, and play as you would a regular CD. We even provide a simple cover artwork graphic that can be printed out for this. Either mp3 or flac files can be used (flac is CD quality audio of course), but both will need transcoding to either ‘wav’ or ‘aiff’ files suitable for CDR burning. This is a straightforward process, and either programs like iTunes or Nero will do it automatically (choose to burn a regular ‘audio disc’, rather than an ‘mp3 disc’), or there is software available online to convert prior to burning.

We have written up extensive notes on downloading and burning audio to disc on our FAQ and help page. Have a read of this, and of course there is always vast amounts of information and tutorials online. Google to the rescue!

Whilst we try and assist where we can, every customer has different capacities, technology, resources and inclinations. We hope you’ll be up for the challenge, or may even have younger family members or a tame tech guru who can help you out.

We’ve heard from many customers who, once they’ve got their heads around downloading, realise just how convenient it is – they are listening to their albums in minutes!

LE Digital Albums

What about iTunes?

We do have some titles available on the iTunes store. However for many reasons we’ve chosen not to place our extended catalogue with them. Their sales quantities are just not viable, their prices are high, they offer us little flexibility in publishing and most importantly, no communication with customers – all you get is an album/artist/cover listing.

iTunes does offer a seamless payment and downloading environment, however they use propriatory software to do this. So whilst our independent website requires a few more clicks, it does allow us to provide you with a wealth of images, rich information and a personal context for your listening.

And for us and our customers, it is not only the listening, but learning and sharing that is important.

Sound in nature often comes from every direction. It usually encompasses a 360º horizon of distant sounds, to which can be added closer sources above; birds in flight or calling in the tree canopy overhead. So it can be conceived of simplistically as a dome of sound, only in certain circumstances presenting anything from the ground below.

Turning this into a left-right stereo field for a soundscape recording is not as straightforward as it may seem, and many rigs have been tried and championed by various recordists. The one I’ve been using over the last decade is a Crown SASS, modified to hold a pair of Sennheiser MKH20 omni-directional microphones. It does a pretty spectacular job, yet recently I’ve been curious to explore a different approach.

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When we visited Nagarhole in 2002, we faced considerable difficulties in making any sound recordings at all. Firstly, we had to seek permissions from the Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka State in Bangalore, necessitating a week-long journey to obtain the required documents. Nagarahole is a Project Tiger reserve, and access to the forest was restricted by curfews. We also had to request special dispensation to enter the park in the early hours to capture the special sounds of predawn. On one occasion we were allowed to remain after dark. We were required to stay near our vehicle, with the constant attendance of a local village guide, who always seemed to be smoking and coughing up the residue.

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All our recordings are made in pristine habitats, and occasionally we encounter rare or threatened critters. We had the privilege of hearing and recording the calls of a pair of Sooty Owls (Tyto tenebricosa).

This clip is from our first album ‘Tall Forest‘ – and was recorded in late summer in the mountain Ash forests of eastern Victoria, Australia.

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North America ticks all the boxes when it comes to trees – they have the tallest, oldest and biggest!

The Coastal Redwood, the tallest living thing on earth towers skywards (110+ metres) leaving you feeling ant-like, among the ferns. The Bristlecone Pine, the oldest living thing on earth, approx 5000 years old, endures a harsh climate of altitude, wind and snow.

Then there is the Giant Sequoia, which can grow as wide 50 meters around and reach up to 90 metres. They are gigantic and monumental in presence – and how their ‘cinnamon’ bark glows in the afternoon light.

Andrew in the presence of giants

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Traveling to the Mojave Desert was a pilgrimage of sorts for me. I am a desert lover and the idea of camping out under a desert sky and sleeping under Joshua trees had been living in my imagination for years, actually, decades. I can’t remember the first time I heard about Joshua Trees and the Mojave Desert, but I do know that the combination of these mythical trees and starry nights resonated deeply in my imaginings.

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Have you ever done internet dating? We haven’t, but sometimes it felt as if we were; setting forth across north America for three months to meet some of our nature sound recording colleagues.

In all, we met over a dozen professionals who, each in their own way, share our deep passion for recording the soundscapes of nature. Most we only knew from talking online or by phone. But with an optimistic sense that we would have a nice connection in person, we’d turn up on their doorstep with a “Hi, we’re here!”. Continue Reading »

When we describe birdsong as ‘nature’s music’, we often mean it more poetically than technically. The reason I think is that our music is based around scales and melodies – that is what we think of as musical.

When we hear a bird singing ‘musically’, it is usually a species who’s singing is in a recognisable scale – Australia’s Pied Butcherbirds or India’s Malabar Whistling Thrushes come to mind.

But these species are soloists. In the Solomon Islands, for the first time, we encountered a community of birds singing in a musical scale.

White-capped Monarch, monarcha richardsii

The White-capped Monarch, Monarcha richardsii

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Our mornings begin early – 4am early!

We are ready to go by 4.20am and meet up with Twomey (pronounced Too-mee), our local guide and companion while on Tetepare island. We walk one and a half kilometres along the shoreline, passing small estuaries, swamps, mangroves and limestone outcrops, before heading into the rainforest.

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We have just returned from 23 days walking the Larapinta Trail, which snakes its way for 223km – up ridge and down gorge – through the Macdonnell Ranges in arid central Australia.

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