Monday, July 21, 2014

Cicada Patterns

We're fortunate to live in a place where our deck goes right out into a tree canopy. Outside, you can sit where everyone else does and listen to them talk to one another. There's a few bullfrogs, but only one called tonight. Lots of crickets and ground critters making a blanket of deafening white noise below. Up with us, though, there's about seven or so cicadas. Maybe more, but I'm just being conservative.

I listened to them in silence for a long time, convinced that there was more to this noise than just jchjchjchchch or enhjenhjenhjenhj. I finally began to hear what sounds like a delicate game.

First of all, the cicada seem to have the capacity to perform very complicated patterns when there's several of them, but the complex patterns are all contained with two simple rules (or, maybe more honestly, I interpret them using two simple rules): stand out and join up.

The large harmony of the voices is an antiphonal chant. One will lead the singing, and then the others in the area will respond. If everyone goes along with this pattern, by about the seventh exchange the song will change where two or more fall out/stand out. This is followed by what I call the reset. Several cicadas will sing at the same time. This is either followed or preceded by a long pause. Then whoever is the first one in to stand out and set the rhythm will then lead the next few chants. If they do well—I'm assuming all of this makes sense—then they get their go for about seven at the most chirps. Then there's a falling out/standing out, and this is followed by a reset.

But there are also instances where a subtle chaos enters into this larger pattern. Someone will stand out alongside the standout, and the rhythm falters. If it falters enough—the lead singer is thrown off the rhythm—then there's a reset and the new contender has to try and lead by standing out. But the previous singer can also take back or reassert the lead. There were numerous instances of different cicadas leading.

I noticed four different leads, with one dominating the majority of the time. It has a higher-pitched chirp than the others, and maybe this has something to do with its ability to own the lead singer position. It was that way. The next singer had a different pitch and tone, but it lead about a third of the time. It was to my left over there. One other had the lead for a few rounds, but never really stood out past the chorus the rest of the time I listened. And there was one new voice that stood out, about in-between the two main rivals, but it only had one round.

But there were definitely more cicadas than just these four. They never stood out from the chorus while I listened.

Once I figure out how to upload music files somewhere, I'll link it back to here. Although, I don't think a smartphone's mic will pick up enough of the vectors of the song to distinguish who's who. Maybe the pitch will be enough.

At any rate, this also reminds me at some point to take the time to write down what the thrushes sing. When I hear the thrush's songs, I smile and call it the codebird. I am convinced there's a language in the thrush's code, a complex logic that has no meaning for me other than the patterns moving through the song.

The patterns of the world are waves in the mind. A mind in harmony with those patterns is capable of listening.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Is this wise?
Is this yours?
Is this love?

Real Time Web Analytics