The Well of Knowing
An environmental sound installation
(2015) ·
The Well of Knowing
The Well of Knowing [5:01 · download]



Looking into Earth / looking into you.

The Well of Knowing is a live environmental sound installation situated at an abandoned 160-foot-deep water well on the coast of Maine. A nearby seismometer continuously records the Earth's natural infrasonic vibrations; custom software translates these inaudible signals into audible sound (see the Earthsound Project); and an underwater hydrophone placed 100 feet down the well retransmits those sounds back into the Earth. By listening at the Well of Knowing, the visitor bears witness to the gradual unfolding of a remarkable event: the Earth listening to itself. The visitor is thus invited to reflect on the transformative possibility that Earth itself is capable of self-awareness.

This sound clip is excerpted from a longer recording that was made in the early morning hours during the arrival of the autumnal equinox (4:21am EDT on September 23, 2015). The recording is a mix of the seismic sounds that are broadcast into the well plus the ambient sounds of the well itself. At this early morning hour local fishermen are heading off to work and out to sea. The distant hum of their boats' engines resonates within the well, creating a gentle pulsating tone: a reminder that the effects of human activity on the Earth's surface can reach far into the depths. Against that drone you can hear the restless seismic sounds of the Earth from the past 7 days — most notably, the crash of a magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Chile (at 00:26) and its aftershocks.


Savoring the last few hours of summer at the Well of Knowing.

The well itself produces its own mysterious sounds. Listen for an occasional knock, click, or chirp — perhaps from the well-casing creaking under the shifting pressures of the water table, or from the movement of the tiny aquatic creatures that have taken up residence in this long-abandoned well.

Or could these small sounds signify the Earth's first tentative stirrings as it adjusts to its unfamiliar new state of conscious self-awareness?

See also: "The Well of Knowing: After the Rain" (2015).