Posted by Joseph Moore on October 12, 2013
I’m not buying it – ‘it’ being that it’s just cricket chirps slowed way down without any other treatment. One big problem: unlike just about any other natural sound – say, bird songs or whale songs, for example – the cricket chirps contain only notes in the diatonic scale. What this means is that we hear a melody and harmony, while in all other natural sound we get the full array of pitches *between* the notes of the scale. Not probable. Natural sounds are just a lot messier than Western music. Happy to be proved wrong, of course.
There are an infinite number of pitches between any two pitches, say, C and C#. The untrained human ear can typically distinguish at least quartertones – tones halfway between C and C#. Highly trained or gifted musicians can hear a lot finer gradation than that. Yet here, all we hear are bugs remarkably on pitch. It’s just too tidy.
Ornithologists of a musical bent have long tried to jot down bird songs using something like Western notation. Sometimes, such a musical score is close enough to remind one of the actual bird song. But recordings of bird song analyzed closely reveal that those darn birds just don’t limit themselves to the notes of the scale, but rather slip and slide through all sorts of pitches with no obvious preference for the ones that make sense to us.
This sounds more like what you’d get if you ran the slowed-down chirps through something like Autotune (a gadget that takes the pitches of ‘pitchy’ singers and digitally moves them to the nearest ‘real’ pitch). It even more sounds like Phillip Glass, if he wrote for a Russian Orthodox choir.
A musician could actually notate this music very closely – there are easily identifiable melody fragments and clear pedal points and an internal ‘alto’ harmony drone-ish part, as well as the occasional high counter melody. (I’d do it, but I’m betting better musicians than I are already on it.) That this could be fairly cleanly notated in standard Western notation would make it, as far as I know, absolutely unique among complex natural sounds.
So, somebody prove me wrong, already!