Professor Steve Wilkes Records Indigenous Sounds of the Cape

By 
Liz Burg
June 14, 2011
Professor Steve Wilkes records sounds of the Cape for Hear Cape Cod.
Photo provided by Steve Wilkes

Percussion professor Steve Wilkes is embarking on the Hear Cape Cod Project to capture aural snapshots of the Cape—including sounds of human activity—over a one-year period and to archive the recordings on an online map with an accompanying blog. Cape Cod faces many potential challenges and developments in the years ahead, from rapidly advancing coastal erosion to the possible implementation of the Cape Wind project. With this in mind, Hear Cape Cod will provide a means to listen to the Cape as it exists now.

Wilkes, who was awarded a Newbury Comics Fellowship to pursue the project, will be at Truro Public Library on Tuesday, June 14 at 7:00 p.m., Rowley Public Library on June 27 at 7:00 p.m., and Brewster Public Library on Friday, August 12 at 10:30 a.m. to present his recordings and discuss how they may be utilized as a baseline in the future. To track Wilkes's recordings, visit hearcapecod.org.

"June of 2009 saw a series of really bad, historic Nor'easters," says Wilkes. "One destroyed family cottages in Chatham, and I started to wake up about rising sea levels and coastal erosion. I had this light bulb moment: we have so many ways to measure change—coastal erosion can be measured in feet and inches, endangered bird species receive regular population counts—but we virtually never measure change by sound." Wilkes adds, "As a musician, I'm proceeding by going with what intrigues my ear, and I'm probably one of only a handful of people who are doing this."

Wilkes started field recording for recreation about ten years ago. As he grew more involved, Wilkes began purchasing professional-grade equipment and going out into the field on a regular basis. In 2009, Wilkes realized field recording could be more than a hobby; his recordings may be of value to the Cape as a benchmark for animal, environmental, human, and cultural activity in the area.