Irv Teibel died this week: Creator of 1970s “Environments” LPs

November 2nd, 2010 · 2 Comments

by Jim Cummings

Irv Teibel passed away on Oct. 28 in Austin, TX. He was 72, and died of cancer that was diagnosed only a couple weeks before his death.  Irv first opened my ears to our living soundscapes in around 1972, when as a teenager I purchased two of his Environments LPs. He released this series under the banner of Syntonic Research Inc. between 1970 and 1979. The series ignited a worldwide interest in field recordings  and was an initial entry into the world of carefully recorded natural sounds for both listeners and later recordists. Irv’s family has created a page on the Caring Bridge website that explains the circumstances of his final years, as well as providing a space for folks to leave remembrances.

The Environments series (see detailed Wikipedia entry) featured a simple, classic format, with side-long tracks that allowed deep experiences of one particular soundscape.  The most popular titles included The Ultimate Thunderstorm (recorded from a balcony in the city!) and the The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore (in which he manipulated recordings from the beach to more closely imitate the auditory experience of being there). These, while not unlike later relaxation-oriented productions, were more primarily respected due to their immersive, high fidelity sonic standards.  The series also explored some themes that were more experimental, often pairing one side of natural soundscape with a flip side of featuring themes such as a Central Park “Be-in”, electronic bell sounds,  and a chorus chanting “om.”  (Perhaps these did not sell so well, as the series featured just natural soundscapes on its final few releases.)

Irv’s work was a precursor to much of what EarthEar and modern environmental sound artists have done, combining state of the art field recording with careful and sensitive studio composition.  There’s no doubting that the Environments series, which garnered widespread press coverage and appreciation, was the foundation for all later efforts to create and market compelling field recordings to the general public.

Thanks, Irv.  We were listening!

Irv Teibel, 1938-2010

Irv Teibel, 1938-2010

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Don Miller` // Jun 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I first encountered the Environments series when I bought the first record, the seashore and aviary, back in the 70s. Subsequently, I bought most of the releases, most of which I think I still have. I even made cassette recordings from them, playing them over and over to fill a 90 min. side. My favorite was recording of the ultimate seashore at 16½ rpm (that record could be played at any speed). I have since digitally converted that cassette tape, but the sound quality suffered in the double transfer. My frustration is that I can’t find a turntable that will play at that speed so I can make a better (digital) recording of that. I have been looking for a analog to digital converting program that will allow one to ‘play’ a recording at slower speeds.

    I loved the whole series. Other favorites were the recording from a wooden boat (probably at anchor), and the ‘gentile rain in a pine forest.’ I too would love it if these recordings would be re-released, and if the ultimate seashore could be released at 16½, 33, and 78 rpm speeds. The slow speed is so relaxing, and the fast speed is like during a storm.

  • 2 Dave Nelson // Dec 15, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Shame there were only 3 CD’s; I could listen to D&D at The Okefenokee Swamp for hours on end.

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