In the long, deep and noisy trenches of World War One, it was a strain for army signalers to hear the messages being sent from distant commanders through the telephone and telegraph wires. 

Along with the latest orders and intelligence, the sigs could also sometimes hear what they took to be enemy fire – strange ‘staccato pops and falling whistles.’

Black and whote photos of World War One soldiers in trenches

In fact, they were hearing the sound of the earth breathing.

That’s how composer Kim Cunio described the sounds more than a hundred years later. He was listening to a recording from the Halley Research Station in Antarctica of the radio waves produced by the earth during natural activities such as storms and lightning strikes. The radio waves are generally not audible to the human ear and had been recorded by a Very Low Frequency (VLF) receiver at the station.

Dr Cunio had been asked to collaborate with the research station to produce a unique album: an original piano score accompanying the sounds of our planet, including the same pops and whistles heard in the trenches of World War One. 

This is the result… to hear the extraordinary music, just go to the album website by clicking on the photo.

Album cover showing the Aurora Borealis night sky with telegraph wires

Dr Cunio told ABC Radio about one of the tracks: ‘I just did it in one take. It’s not perfect but it’s truthful.’

Not perfect but truthful.

If it is good enough for the sounds of our planet, perhaps it is good enough for our work too?

Truthful. Not perfect.