From Bernie Krause’s opinion piece, “The Sound of a Damaged Habitat” in the NYT Sunday Review on the 29th, about how “environmental degradation always changes the soundscape”:

A soundscape contains three basic sources: the geophony, which includes all nonbiological natural sounds like wind or ocean waves; the biophony, which embraces the biological, wild, nonhuman sounds that emanate from environments; and the anthrophony — man-made sounds, commonly referred to as noise.

So: soundscape (with the combining form -scape) and also geophony / biophony / anthrophony (with the combining form -phony). The first has been around for a while, the second set is a recent invention of Krause’s.

Soundscape in OED2, which has two senses:

(a) a musical composition consisting of a texture of sounds [cites from 1968 on];  (b) the sounds which form an auditory environment [cites from 1973 on]

The combining form -scape (from landscape) is in Quinion’s affixes list, glossed ‘a specified type of scene, or a representation of it’, with a list of examples including cityscape, streetscape, dreamscape, and, yes, soundscape (in sense (a)), plus some one-off creations like Californiascape, skyscraperscape, and plotscape.

On to biophony and its siblings. From Wikipedia:

Biophony … is the collective sound vocal non-human animals create in each given environment. The term, which refers to one of three components of the soundscape (the others include geophony [non-biological natural sound] and anthrophony [human-induced noise]), was coined by Dr. Bernie Krause.

The reference to Krause is from a 5/19/08 Wired magazine piece by Clive Thompson on “How Man-Made Noise May Be Altering Earth’s Ecology”, which begins:

Bernie Krause listens to nature for a living. The 69-year-old is a field recording scientist: He heads into the wilderness to document the noises made by native fauna — crickets chirping in the Amazon rain forest, frogs croaking in the Australian outback.

But Krause has noticed something alarming. The natural sound of the world is vanishing.

The combining form -phony (forming nouns related to adjectives or nouns in -phone and adjectives in -phonous or -phonic) is also in Quinion, here, where it’s noted that:

Rather more [nouns] are formed using -phony: cacophony (Greek kakos, bad), a harsh discordant mixture of sounds; euphony (Greek eu, well), the quality of being pleasing to the ear, polyphony (Greek polloi, many), simultaneously combining a number of musical parts in harmony.

to which we could add homophony, allophony, telephony (on telephon- words, see here), and others — and now biophony and its siblings.


One Response to “-phonies”

  1. sheds and scapes | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] -scape, from a posting on, among other […]

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