Skip to content
Health, Sports & Psychology

OU on the BBC: Sound of Life - First Sounds

Updated Thursday, 15th July 2004

The first programme in the BBC/OU Sound of Life series looks at the noises from the start of the world.

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

Aubrey Manning, series presenter Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team In the first programme in the series, Aubrey Manning digs back into prehistory to find the first animal to ever communicate with sound. With the help of experts, he recreates the meaty croak of a one-and-a-half metre wide frog, which lived on Earth 335 million years ago. Using fossils as evidence, it appears these fascinating creatures were the first animals to intentionally use sound to communicate.


Aubrey kicks off his acoustic journey by travelling back millions of years to the very first sounds of the universe. Far up in hills on the Scottish borders, he discovers how earth, rocks, water and ice forming were the dominant sounds on Earth before life existed. Inanimate sounds which still pervade our planet today.

As life began to evolve, so too did the sounds of the planet. The programme uncovers the accidental sounds made by the first life-forms in the oceans which later evolved onto land. Bacteria, which can still be found in the Antarctic Ocean today, made the first sounds of life on planet Earth. They produced bubbles of oxygen, which made sounds as they passed through the water. They also formed dense, soggy mats which sloshed against the shores, creating the first sound of life for three billion years.

With the help of various experts, Aubrey continues this fascinating journey of sound through to present day and even into the future. Later in the series he discovers sounds undetectable to the human ear, how it can be hard to make yourself heard in the Costa Rican jungle and looks into the complex meanings of different sounds, including our own language and birdsongs.

First broadcast: Monday 26 Jul 2004 on BBC Radio 4





Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?