Peter Cusack is a field recordist and musician with a special interest in environmental sound and acoustic ecology. His projects have included community arts, research into sound and our sense of place, and documentary recordings in areas of special sonic interest (Lake Bajkal, Aral Sea, the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the Caspian oil fields, or UK nuclear sites). The project Sounds From Dangerous Places explores soundscapes at the sites of major environmental damage. Cusack initiated the Favourite Sounds project in London 1998 with the aim of discovering what people find positive about their everyday sound environment. The project has since been established in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Prague and Birmingham. He lectures in Sound Arts and Design at the London College of Communication and was recently a DAAD artist in residence in Berlin.

Aral Sea Stories: Soundscapes of A Major Environmental Change

Sixty years ago the Aral Sea in Central Asia was the planet’s fourth largest lake. Today it has almost disappeared; a victim of vast Soviet irrigation schemes that divert too much water from its source rivers. It is one of the 20th century’s most significant, and least known, environmental disasters. However, since independence, Kazakhstan is successfully restoring a part of the Aral in its territory. Rising water levels and a reborn fishing industry are bringing obvious improvements to the local ecology and economy. It is a much needed positive example in the climate change debate and in re-thinking our relationship to the environment.

Since 2013 I have made several trips to the Aral and its watershed to make field recordings, take photographs, talk to people and to try to understand the impact of these major changes. During the talk recording of sounds from the region will be played, their stories told and the implications discussed.