Founder, The Listening Planet
Likened to the David Attenborough of sound, self-taught audio naturalist Martyn Stewart has created well over 60 albums, throughout his 55 years of recording sounds of nature, with some of those recorded species sadly now extinct. His database of recordings covers some 97,000 files of over 3500 species of birds, countless insects, amphibians, and mammals.
His first introduction to the animal world was at aged 7, when his brother Alan took him to a fox hunt, to try to sabotage it. Martyn was as appalled at the idea of this hunt as was his brother, which was further emphasized by one of the hunters whipping Martyn and telling him to get lost. When he was a young boy of 11, nature was his way to escape from his home surroundings… to escape from the poverty, and immerse himself in a purer world, where it was just him and the “critters” as he calls them. Later, as a teen and young adult, Martyn would expand his understanding of the equipment he was using in order to better record the animals he was so fascinated by. And as his ability to record these sounds grew, he realized he had a natural knack, as well as a deep rooted passion, for it. Martyn then began to submit his recordings to the BBC as he wanted a job there. They invited him for a tour, but didn’t offer a job. So instead, Martyn took a degree in horticulture, and then went to Tech College for audio engineering, and supported himself by working as a waiter and also at a golf course nearby.
Since Martyn would record everything himself, but was still learning during his younger years, he would log his sounds into his journal with his own best guess of what he had heard and recorded. Plus “species would often hide themselves” making it even harder to spot them.
As Martyn’s proficiency at recording all kinds of nature grew, so did his passion for animals – which naturally translated into activism. Over the last 25 years, Martyn has traveled across the world to advocate for the voiceless, by filming many of the acts of animal cruelty committed in the name of tradition, religion, culture or ignorance, often times putting himself in danger to do so, and sometimes having to go undercover to ensure his own safety.
Following a recent diagnosis of terminal cancer, Martyn has made it his mission to ensure as many people across the world have an opportunity to listen to his recordings and enjoy the wonderful, wondrous sounds of the “critters” that have given him so much joy in his life. He has also produced CDs/sounds for 3 published books (Artic Wings, The Owl & The Woodpecker, Birdsongs of the Pacific Northwest), and has provided sounds for about 150 films ranging from huge Pixar/Disney animations such as Frozen, to comedies like Big Year, featuring Steve Martin.
In 2021, Martyn and his niece, Amanda Hill, set up The Listening Planet, a foundation dedicated to showcasing Martyn’s lifetime of work and sharing it with the world, to ensure Martyn’s legacy continues on long after him.