Episode 079 – Matt Mikkelsen | Sound recordist, Documentary filmmaker & Co-founder of Spruce Tone Films, & Executive Director of Wilderness Quiet Parks at Quiet Parks International

Matthew Mikkelsen is an audio engineer, and a sound recordist. As the co-founder of Spruce Tone Films, he creates documentary films. Matt also serves as the Executive Director of Wilderness Quiet Parks at Quiet Parks International.

Listen to his journey from growing up in New York state and studying the world of sounds, to now sharing impactful stories through documentary films, and saving quiet in the wild!

With a keen interest in performing music as a young adult, Matt now finds his happy place in the woods.

One Square Inch of Silence is an independent research project by award winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton. Located off the Hoh River Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, it’s marked by a small red stone.

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N 48.12885°, W 123.68234° 303 feet ASL

Marked by a small red stone, this pristine and diverse environment is possibly the most naturally quiet place in the United States.

Gordon’s project, One Square Inch of Silence Foundation, has now evolved into a global project.

Quiet Parks International (QPI) is a private non-profit organisation that aims to identify and preserve quiet, and conserve natural spaces from noise pollution across the world. In addition to awarding quiet spaces, QPI helps develop Wilderness Quiet Parks, Urban Quiet Parks, Quiet Trails, Marine Quiet Parks, Quiet Residences and Communities, and Quiet Stays.


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Featured above is Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei, Taiwan, the world’s first Urban Quiet Park.

Head on Quiet Trails to soak up pristine and tranquil surroundings.

Indulge in an array of experiences amid quiet spaces, which include forest bathing, therapies, and tea ceremonies.

Featured above is a glimpse of Zabalo River in Ecuador, home to the Cofan Nation. It’s the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park.

Spruce Tone Films is a full suite production company founded by Matt Mikkelsen and Palmer Morse. They share compelling stories of socially and environmentally conscious initiatives, and the outdoors.

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Featured below is a cover image of their first documentary called Being Hear, which captures the soundscape conservation efforts of Gordon Hempton.

Also, mentioned on this podcast
Aaron MillarAlan LevinovitzAmazon RainforestAnechoic chamberAnthrophonyArctic Circle – Arctic Circle air traffic – Armchair ExplorerAtlas ObscuraAtlas Obscura: Soundscapes of Cities TransformedAustriaBeing HearBernie KrauseBiophonyBoudhanathCities and MemoryCofan Tribe, AmazonDenmark – Ecuadorian Amazon – Elon MuskGeophonyGordon HemptonGordon Hempton TED talkGrand Canyon helicopter toursGrand Teton National ParkGreat Big StoryHoh Rain ForestHunting in North AmericaIthaca College, NYJackson, WYJoe Rogan podcast with Alan LevinovitzLesotho – Mary – Mid-west farming and agriculture – Monument Valley Tribal ParkNavajo Nation – Noise-free interval (NFI) – NPR The WildOlympic National ParkOrfield Laboratories, MinneapolisPalmer MorseMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyMicrosoft headquarters, WashingtonPebble Mine, AlaskaPrathima MuniyappaSeattleShare Your QuietSounds OfSpainTransformational Travel CouncilTwenty Thousand HertzUnited KingdomValley of the GodsVenture OutVikram ChauhanWater Flows TogetherWolf reintroduction in YellowstoneWyomingYangmingsham Quiet ParkYellowstone National ParkZabalo River

Timestamps for reference
02:21 Why Wyoming?
07:57 What does silence mean to Matt?
09:02 Human-made noise and human interaction with nature
10:11 Treating our natural spaces better
12:21 Priority of conserving quiet by understanding natural sounds
15:02 Are tribal and folk songs natural sounds?
20:43 Psychedelics and sounds
21:43 Talking about quiet in an anechoic chamber
25:02 What is nature, and what is natural?
33:48 A bit about Bernie Krause
34:53 How did Matt meet Gordon?
43:43 The kinds of sounds that Matt and Gordon record
48:17 Leading to QPI from the first meeting with Gordon
50:40 Who is Gordon Hempton, and what is an acoustic ecologist?
54:40 What is Gordon upto these days?
55:45 What is One Square Inch of Silence?
57:29 Origin of Quiet Parks International
59:42 What does One Square Inch of Silence represent?
01:02:15 Why protecting soundscapes is important from a conservation perspective?
01:03:43 Why protecting naturally quiet spaces spills over to other forms of conservation too?
01:05:30 Awarding the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park and Urban Quiet Park
01:07:58 Managing a Quiet Parks International award/certification
01:13:11 Was it easier to award a Wilderness Quiet Park or an Urban Quiet Park?
01:13:49 Standards of awarding quiet parks
01:18:33 Other quiet experiences courtesy of Quiet Parks International
01:19:58 Identifying Marine Quiet Parks
01:22:50 Challenges in awarding quiet destinations
01:25:32 Hunting and Quiet Parks in the US
01:28:59 Farming and agriculture vs quiet spaces
01:30:52 How population density affects quiet spaces
01:32:20 Initiations for awarding quiet areas
01:33:21 Upcoming quiet destinations across the world through 2020-2021
01:34:30 Introducing Vikram Chauhan, President of QPI
01:36:30 How can a layman contribute to conserving quiet spaces?
01:38:29 Matt as a filmmaker, and co-founding Spruce Tone Films
01:42:23 Adventure sports and the outdoors in conserving quiet spaces
01:44:23 Recording other soundscapes apart from nature sounds
01:46:58 Upcoming projects personally, and with QPI
01:48:58 What’s the team of QPI like?


Show cover jingle courtesy of Icons8
Music by Nordgroove from Fugue

Episode background tunes courtesy of YouTube Audio Library
by Emmit Fenn
First Class by DJ Williams
Dawn chorus at One Square Inch by Gordon Hempton
Orbit by Corbyn Kites
Whispering Stream by E’s Jammy Jams
Temptation by Chris Haugen
Untitled 079 by Nikhil Shankar

All photographs by Matt Mikkelsen, Quiet Parks International, & Spruce Tone Films, unless otherwise stated

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