Rubbing Wings Slowly

Warning!!  This is an early Christmas post!  Well, at least I waited till it was  December.

One of the cute things about my wife is that she heckles crickets!   Yup, she just can leave the little critters alone.  On occasion when we are walking in the countryside in the cool of the evenings, we would come across a chorus of crickets chirping.  The sound can be quite loud and in the relative quiet of the evening it is the most prominent sound to reach the ears.  Instead of just enjoying the natural sounds, my wife would always flash a mischievous smile and then she would ‘chirp”.

“Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!” goes my wife enthusiastically.

Then something amazing always happens;  ……………all the crickets stop chirping ……..completely…………just stunned silence!  You have to be there to really appreciate the sudden drop from cricket crescendo to stunned silence.   Well, just total silence really.  I say “stunned silence” because I always imagine the little insects stop rubbing their wings  (rubbing wings is how they produce the chirping sound) and sitting there on their blades of grass with their jaws dropped!

I can only imagine what goes through their minds.

Theory 1:  They think; “My, my, that is the most beautiful cricket voice I have ever heard!” (not likely!) .

Theory 2: They think, “Wow! That is really, really bad ….. an off-key ….. an plain awful!” (more likely)

Theory 3:  They think, “Surely, that’s a bird or a frog  trying to pretend that he is a cricket to get a quick meal.  Better keep quiet so he doesn’t know where I am.” (even more likely).

But just this week, I discovered this video below and I hope after my wife sees it, she will stop heckling the creatures.

Doesn’t that sound like a heavenly choir?  So that’s my early Christmas post!

Now, it seems that this was recorded by an American American musician, Jim Wilson, in the 1990’s.  It was used  on the album Medicine Songs as the track “Ballad of the Twister Hair.”   There are supposed to be two tracks superimposed on each other; the first is the cricket chirp at normal speed and the second is the same slowed down.  It is claimed that the melodious chorus sound was produced by slowing down a recording of chirping crickets by more than 800 times.  This was said to be done as crickets live their life in high speed with a  lifespan that is approximately 800 times shorter than that of a human.  In the liner notes it is explained;  “Though it may sound like a synthesizer or a chorus singing; it’s the crickets themselves slowed way down, creating the effect of a choir of human voices. The sound created is a simple diatonic 7-note scale chord progression and melody with a multi-layered structure.”

Skeptics doubt that this sound could have been accomplished just by slowing down the natural crickets’ sound.  Attempts have been made to reproduce it.  Some musicians have tried to reproduce the sound without crickets and have failed.  Others have made their own attempts to slow down recordings of cricket chirps.  The latter found some of the sounds were reproducible but found the sounds more repetitive than the flowing choral sound in Jim Wilson’s recording.    One theory is that it really is the sound of crickets slowed down but not purely from just that and that the melodic choral element may have resulted from some secondary manipulation of the sound.  The debate continues and you can check it out at Snopes.


9 thoughts on “Rubbing Wings Slowly”

  1. Interesting – I did follow the link and read the Snopes piece, too. But even without whatever layering was done, I’ve always liked the sounds of crickets. I have them in my basement and can hear them all the way up in the rest of the house. I sometimes amuse myself by opening to door suddenly so that they’ll stop for a few moments.

  2. However it was done, I like it. I love cricket sound. My husband has tinnitus and it is on the same frequency as crickets, so he can’t hear them. I think that’s sad.

  3. geewits,
    Sorry to learn about your husband’s tinnitus. IS there nothing that can be done to relieve it? I was just thinking that most of us take a lot of these sounds for granted until we can’t hear them anymore.

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