Environments 1, released a year before Songs of the Humpback Whale and nearly a decade before Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports, introduced the psychoacoustic concept of sound masking, and significantly advanced in popular consciousness the idea of therapeutic uses for natural sound.
The initial idea came to Teibel following a trip to Coney Island with famed underground artist Tony Conrad to record ocean sounds for Conrad’s film Coming Attractions. Teibel listened to the recordings the next day, and immediately recognized the way they masked other sounds and calmed his mind. He began to collect additional ocean recordings on both coasts but eventually determined that the original recording couldn't be replicated. To create Side A’s “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore,” Teibel digitally processed the original Brighton Beach loop with neuropsychologist Lou Gerstman at Bell Labs. Gerstman was a pioneer in speech synthesis and had helped create the technology for the earliest known recording of a computer-synthesized voice singing a song called “Daisy Bell.” The ocean loop Teibel and Gerstman created was one of the earliest electronically processed recordings to be made commercially available, and was designed to be played at turntable speeds from 45 rpm down to 16⅔ rpm, which made it one of the longest LPs released at the time. Environments 1 appeared in September, 1969 and sold incredibly well and was soon picked up for distribution by Atlantic Records.
“Optimum Aviary,” the second side of Environments 1, was recorded at the Bronx Zoo. The album jacket advises the recording to be played at low volume settings, since “Syntonic Research recording engineers produced a ‘heavy cut’… to both minimize groove wear and reduce surface noise.” The liners also advise playing the recording during morning hours. Pitched as a tool to improve alertness and concentration and to “make a room seem brighter and bigger,” some listeners nevertheless reported feelings of anxiety, and Teibel never considered it one of his most successful recordings.
- Environments Psychologically Ultimate Seashore (33 rpm)
- Environments Optimum Aviary
- Environments Psychologically Ultimate Seashore (16 rpm)
- Environments Psychologically Ultimate Seashore (45 rpm)