Enjoy Nature Electronically
August 7, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore was the first in the Environments series of records, an early entry in the field of white-noise nature sound albums. One interesting aspect of the albums was that most were designed to be played on a loop at any speed; another was that selections were included on the Voyager Golden Record as "Sounds of the Earth".

The NYT article contemporary with the release is online, but paywalled.

The creator of the series, Irv Teibel, died in October, 2010.
posted by 23 (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have every single one of the Environments series. They are incredibly effective, especially Gentle Rain in a Pine Forest. I wore out many recordings of that one. It's amazingly soothing.
Some, like the recording of the 1969 "Be-In" in NYC, put you vividly in the middle of a different time and place.

I understand one of the Environments series was the longest continuous recording put on an LP.

I would dearly love to see these released in digital form but have yet to find anything that measures up in terms of aural quality.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:02 AM on August 7, 2012

I was hoping you had found some way to listen to this, but I don't see it among the links.
posted by grobstein at 8:04 AM on August 7, 2012

I have rips of 10 and 3 and cassette 5. If anyone wants to trade, I have lots of Sounds of Nature, Echoes of Nature, Solitiudes, etc.

kinnakeet, any thoughts on digitizing your copies?
posted by Theta States at 8:05 AM on August 7, 2012

Some of them are easily found on YouTube or CDs on Amazon; the others generally aren't mentioned online anywhere that I've found.

Besides the recordings, it would be great if someone could post a picture of the instructions for looping the records or a video of actually doing so. It was those instructions (and the title) that made an impression on me when I saw the first one in a thrift store years ago.
posted by 23 at 8:12 AM on August 7, 2012

Theta States, I would love to but lack (a) adequate equipment, and (b) know-how. It's a real shame someone hasn't already done so. I'd cheerfully pay for clean digital copies of the series.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2012

I have the Environments-4 record and have always loved it. Seriously amazing recordings. They can really show-off a good stereo system.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:21 AM on August 7, 2012

kinnakeet, me-mail sent.
posted by Theta States at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2012

I don’t know how long these were in print, but they were still selling in ’89 when I worked at a record distributor, along with many new competitors.
posted by bongo_x at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2012

I've got most of em on vinyl right here. Come on over.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:17 AM on August 7, 2012

I got into these when I discovered them at my local public library in the mid-80s. I own 8 of the 11 on vinyl now, despite having no turntable on which to play them. I keep meaning to complete my collection (they show up from time to time on eBay) and convert them to digital, but I'd need some kind of professional-level conversion which could clean up some of the pops/scratches/etc., not just a straight vinyl-to-MP3 conversion. I've seen people who offer this, but not cheaply, so that's put me off too.

My favorites were Tintinnabulation (which, as the Wikipedia article notes, was also on one of the CD releases so I have that), Wood-Masted Sailboat, and Ultimate Thunderstorm.

The insides (or maybe backs, don't have them at hand at the moment) of the record jackets have all kinds of new-agey claims about their effects. The skeptic in me is, well, skeptical that they're better than any other professional field recordings, but the romantic in me is enchanted by the claims and thinks they make a good story even if they're not true.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:57 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Man, I really wish I hadn't lost this relaxation CD I had in college of sounds from Voyager; it was really inadequately labeled, but I think it was Plasma Wave Subsystem data in audio form.

Oh my gosh, I think this is it, and there is a whole series! Joy!
posted by BrashTech at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2012

Environments 3 (via Grooveshark): Be-In (A Psychoacoustic Experience) [36m33s], Dusk At New Hope, Pennsylvania [36m33s]

Environments 4 (via Recordo Obscura): features A Psychologically Perfect Thunderstorm and Gentle Rain In A Pine Forest (Synthetic Silence)

Environments 5 (via Recordo Obscura): features Ultimate Heartbeat and Wind In The Trees

Environments 11 (via Recordo Obscura): features Alpine Blizzard and Country Thunderstorm

These are the one's I've found quickly. If I find more, I'll post 'em here for everyone's edification.
posted by hippybear at 7:31 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]



posted by hippybear at 7:31 PM on August 7, 2012

So I went and pulled out the ones I have (all but 5, 9, and 11), not having looked at them in years. The backs of the jackets tend to have the top half with testimonials from listening tests of that album, while the bottom half have descriptions of the album sides. Of the ones I have, 1, 2, 3, and 7 have the type of jackets that open up book-style (there's probably a name for this, but I'm not a collector) with more information on the inside. The others have standard type jackets.

Several of the ones I have with standard jackets have sleeves with more information; all of the sleeves appear to be the same, except one I have is printed in blue and the rest in black. These sleeves are printed on both sides (one labeled just "environments" and the other labeled "The Magic of Psychoacoustic Sound.") The latter side has a lot of the most new-agey claims I remember.

Here's some excerpts from those sleeves. From the "environments" side:

If you are like most people, you own a great many records. Have you ever asked yourself why you own so many records? Perhaps the main reason may be one you have never really considered before; you have to own a great many records because you can't stand to listen to the same records over and over again, no matter how attached you are to them.

For this reason you will find Environments releases totally different from all other records you own. Environments are sounds based on how we all react to aural stimulation. For the most part, this means that the sounds on an Environments disc get better the more you hear them, and that you can play most Environments sides over and over without getting tired of them....
(I might dispute their claims about not being able to listen to other albums over and over based on my years-long obsession with the Bach Cello Suites, which I've posted about before, but I digress...)

On to the "Magic of Psychoacoustic Sound" side of the sleeve, with some of the more, um, interesting claims. It starts out with fairly ordinary claims about use of Environments for noise masking, to achieve solitude, or their use as background in social situations, but then...

If you play music while you read or study, you do so because your surroundings are too quite or you just want some aural "company." However, almost all music is meant to be listened to, thus you are placed in the shizophrenic [sic] position of switching attention from what your [sic] are reading to what you are listening to. Since almost everyone knows how distracting this is, one of our initial priorities in developing the Environments Series has been to find sounds which can be used as an effective aid to concentration.... We do suggest that, once you find a sound that works for you in this context, you stick with that sound as a habit and that you use specific environmental sounds for specific purposes, such as "Gentle Rain in a Pine Forest" for technical material, "Woodmasted Sailboat" for report preparation and "Summer Cornfield" for paying bills....


High Times Magazine worried that the FDA might eventually ban Envirornments as "highly addictive" and might even wish to make them a "controlled substance." Although the comment was facetious, the fact is that many people have commented that Environments are a "natural high" in both senses of the term....


... We have explained to experienced meditators that we wanted them to listen to particular Environments sounds on earphones and compare the experience to meditational experiences they had learned through other methods. For the most part, these experimental participants reported a different state of meditation from what they had ordinarily experienced. Since most participants did not have to actively work at the meditational process, we called the process "induced meditation," in that it was virtually automatic.

... Rather than go into the exact process, which would require far more space that what is available here, what we are recommending is an attempt to duplicate the fifth day of a one-week vacation...


Utilizing Environments in a dark room is always a delight. That dark room can be anywhere and, if you happen to be engaged in lovemaking, a bed or sofa is usually not where your imagination really wants to be.... We do recommend that you not use the same Environments side twice in a row for this particular purpose....

We have found that our heartbeat recording does have a special relationship to sex, however. This particular sound actually seems to slow down and synchronize the act of lovemaking in a way not experienced by most people. It works for almost everyone and it is a unique experience.


... The problem with substances taken internally for relaxation purposes is that one often has no control over their effects once they are in the body and many drugs in this category are only marginally safe. (For instance: alcohol and certain tranquilizers) SR has spent a decade searching for sounds which can search as substitutes for these drugs.....


... The technique involves lying down with a damp cloth covering your eyes and forehead. Use a white-noise type Environments at moderate volume and concentrate on the ebb and flow of the sound. We don't guarantee it but it works for many people and sure beats aspirin.


If a child is under six months of age, we think you will be surprised by how effective certain Environments are in calming various discomfort conditions.... We recommend you start with the heartbeat sound but you may also wish to consider water and bird sounds as well.

We evaluate almost all our Environments with animals at some stage in our test procedure. We think you will be surprised how calm and interested cats and dogs become when exposed to Environments...

In terms of plant growth, we have received considerable mail telling us that specific Environments seem to be effective, particularly meditation-type sounds and flowing water. Try putting a plant in front of one of the speakers for a day or two and see what happens.... (note: Syntonic Research, Inc. has had mixed results utilizing plant experiments, although research is continuing. If you come up with a particular occurance [sic] under controlled circumstances, please document the results and provide us with details.)
(Elisions mine, italics in the original. Any typos except those indicated by [sic] are mine.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:35 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

the type of jackets that open up book-style (there's probably a name for this, but I'm not a collector)

posted by hippybear at 8:41 PM on August 7, 2012

Most interesting of all is something I found in looking through my albums which I'd forgotten that I have: a fourteen-page, typed, double-spaced description of Disc Two (Tintinnabulation/Dawn at New Hope). I have no idea where this came from, although it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would have been routinely included with the record: it's just fourteen loose pages in a transparent plastic cover, and there's no "branding" or even letterhead indicating it's intended as a promotional item. It's also not clear whether it's originally from SR or not (it does have "SYNTONIC RESEARCH, INC./ENVIRONMENTS, DISC TWO/ATLANTIC SD 66002" at the top, but it's not clear if that's the source of the text or just a description of the record being described by someone else.) It's also not clear if the typed pages are the original form of the text or if it was copied from somewhere else, nor who the author might be if it's not from SR. It provides a much more detailed description than what's on the album jacket. Anyone else seen anything like this?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:47 PM on August 7, 2012

Great post, I loved these records, until they got scratchy.
Thanks for that linkage, hippybear!
posted by Rash at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2012

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