Scope and Contents
Title: Jack Wolf Collection
Collection number: ARS.0088
: One hundred seventy-three (173) audiocassettes ; forty-five (45) open reel tapes
Archive of Recorded Sound
Field recordings of environmental sounds from around the world, captured by hobbyist Jack Wolf.
Open for research; material must be requested at least two business days in advance of intended use. Contact the Archive for
Property rights reside with repository. Publication and reproduction rights reside with the creators or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Head Librarian of the Archive of Recorded Sound.
Jack Wolf Collection, ARS-0088. Courtesy of the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford,
The Jack Wolf Collection was donated to the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound by Judy Wolf Cannady in 2007.
This finding aid was produced with generous financial support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Scope and Contents
Jack Wolf, who often referred to himself as "Bwana Jack," lived alone in Marina Del Ray, California until he passed away from
cancer circa 2006. A Stanford graduate, Wolf was a banker by trade, as well as a world traveler, naturalist and animal lover.
Beginning in the late 1960s, he began recording environmental sounds on his excursions abroad, mostly for his own enjoyment.
Wolf collected sounds from Africa, Asia (particularly the South Pacific islands), Amazon, Costa Rica, and the United States.
In a memo Wolf wrote in 1992, he explained what motivated him: "they are by and large natural sounds, birds and animals, collected
as a hobby and as a 'sound bank' for future generations so that they know what the world sounded like in the still-wild late
20th century." Through the 1990s, his tapes chronicle the encroachment of once-remote locales by motor noise, international
jet travel, domesticated animals, and, of course, other people. Although an admitted amateur, he was proud to note that the
Los Angeles Museum of Natural History used his recordings of Amazonian birdcalls. He also made a series of Amazon trips with
UCLA professor Mildred Mathias. Wolf expressed a hope that his collection would someday be deposited in an archive.
The majority of tapes are from Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaysia, places Wolf returned to frequently. He also made many recordings
in Tanzania and Kenya. However, he was not averse to exploring some of the more remote areas of the Western United States,
including Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Utah, Nevada, and California's Anza-Borreaga Desert. In his recordings,
Wolf used a Sony portable recorder and Sennheiser microphones. He reviewed his work closely, edited tapes, and put his favorite
recordings on special reels. Although there's little mention of the recordings, a chronology and other contextual information
may be gleaned from copies of his annual Christmas letters from 1968 to 2004, included with the collection. There are many
pages of personal notes about the tapes, though, and specific animals are sometimes identified.
Animals, especially insects, primates, and birds, are foregrounded, but the sounds of weather (wind, rain, thunder) and waterfalls
are also prevalent. In the Amazon, Wolf wrote of "good rain storms," "night crickets...just dripping canopy...quacks on landing
dock," and "frogs and dogs and drums...too many dogs!" Evocative descriptions of these moments continue in Costa Rica ("Toucans
and mosquitos...Howlers, then hum of boat or car..."), and Africa ("Bird and cricket, mostly cricket," "Flamingos at night...emerald
spotted wood dove," "Baboons grunting and barking," "Herd of zebra through camp, good sound," "Bush babies, woke me up!,"
"Snapping fire and birds," "Morning birds and dew dropping on tent," "Very close hyena," "Hyena growl at lion kill," "Hippo
on the Mara.") On one trip to Kenya in 1991, Wolf "left the recorder going for one hour each day at remote Mukatan sites.
Hiked while recording was going on, so no people, no cattle. Just the pure Mukatan-my favorite Earth spot." Of course, Wolf's
mics also captured the sounds of his own presence: his campfire, his guides, conversations among companions, so much that
some tapes could almost be called "Sounds of Men Camping." But there are many hours of undisturbed nature here, and from places
where that might not be possible even ten years later.