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Episode 2

Episode 2 of 3

A bioacoustics scientist, an echolocation scientist and an acoustic engineer are among those who listen to spaces and places and study how we can see with sound.

Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona's case) and listening to the echoes to hear and "see" their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Wills Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of 'seeing with sound', of creating 'maps' from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteous discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor's case! Producer Sarah Blunt.

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28 minutes


Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3½ years as a result of a rare type of eye cancer, Retinoblastoma. She uses echolocation to help navigate her surroundings.   Human Echolocation involves producing audible clicks, eg by clicking the tongue on the roof of the mouth or clicking with the fingers, and then listening to the echoes produced when the sound bounces off nearby objects. People trained to use echolocation can identify such things as the distance, size, shape and material of objects.

Lore Thaler is a lecturer at Durham University who studies Human echolocation and has worked with Fiona Gameson.

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Katrina Porteous is a poet, historian and broadcaster.  She has spent much of her life in County Durham  and Northumberland and much of her work has been inspired by the inshore fishing community of the Northumberland coast and the cultural and natural history of the area.

For more information about her work:

The extracts of her Radio Poems used in The Listeners were taken from:

Dunstanburgh Castle; a secret as old as the stones, produced by Julian May. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 09/2/2004. The extract also features the actor Trevor Fox.

Between the Ears - The Refuge Box produced by Julian May. First broadcast Radio 3, 08/12/2007 


Christopher Wills Clark is senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University, and in the Bioacoustics Research programme at Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology.

The Bioacoustics Research Program develops and uses digital technology, including equipment and software, to record and analyze the sounds of wildlife around the globe. By listening to wildlife, they advance the understanding of animal communication and monitor the health of wildlife populations. They help policy makers, industries, and governments use this information to minimize the impact of human activities on wildlife and natural environments.

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Trevor Cox is Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University.  He carries out research in performance room acoustics, investigating how room conditions can be improved for good speech communication, and quality music production and reproduction. 

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The saxophone piece, Syrinx by Debussey was recorded by Angus McPake and performed by Trevor Cox.