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The immersive sounds of the Polish wilderness

“Sounds of Wild Poland”, this week’s instalment of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, treats listeners to an atmospheric soundscape.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Izabela Dłużyk was born blind, and was given a tape recorder when she was just ten years old. On long walks with her grandfather along the Baltic coast near her hometown of Gdańsk, she began recording the sounds made by birds, frogs and any other natural phenomena they encountered on the way. Now 35, and an audio documentarian of the natural world, Dłużyk explains that she was drawn to sound recording because it is so “universal”: whether she is recording for blind or sighted people, “everyone just listens”. It took her five years to save up for her first professional microphone, and now she carries three with her to make her nature recordings: one for handheld, up-close audio and two other for landscape recordings that can be left running without her.

In “Sounds of Wild Poland”, this week’s instalment of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, listeners are treated to Dłużyk’s dense, immersive, atmospheric soundscapes as she talks us through recordings made in some of the country’s most ancient and untamed places. In the wetlands, Dłużyk explains, you can actually hear the damp. At dawn, you can hear the mist. And in the forest you can hear the echoes of very distant sounds bouncing off the trees.

We begin at dawn in the woods and wetlands, in the Biebrza Marshes and the Białowieża primeval forest that straddles Poland and Belarus. We hear cuckoos, cranes and several Eurasian bittern. Dłużyk is keenly attentive to the nuances of their different calls. She describes “the rhythmical, very low” sounds of the bittern: “When he starts he just swallows air… after that, he just booms, once.” We hear sound of deer hooves splashing in water. And the noises of some of the last remaining bison in Europe, which are near extinction: the sound of their teeth grazing on the grass; the sound of their fur brushing up against a tree, even the sound of their breath, a very specific noise, audibly different to that of deer or foxes, deep and low. “Nature recording is an adventure,” Dłużyk explains. “A way of delving into another world.”

The Essay: Sounds of Wild Poland
BBC Radio 3, 15 July, 9.45pm; available on catch-up

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This article appears in the 10 Jul 2024 issue of the New Statesman, All Change