White Noise: frogs
All MP3s under frogs:
Daybreak on the Amazon Basin
Sleepy Jungle Slumber
Duration: 65 minutes 31 seconds, Size: 89.9 MB.
Dream Forest — perfect to use as a sleep aid or peaceful background noise. I have recorded this area of Canada’s boreal forest more than 300 times and each time I visit this wonderful little amphitheater I fall deeper in love with its changing voice.
Dream Forest is a digital binaural recording of one of those sacrosanct nights that follows a warm spring day. The first thunderstorm of the season has passed, its lightning having released a nutritious rainfall of freshly ionized nitrogen. Leaves are just beginning to unfold, ferns are unfurling, and water is everywhere. Water is running and on the move.
The sounds of peaceful trickles of running water come from all around, and larger moving volumes can be heard in the distant background. Emanating from around, seemingly without a direct source, a velvety sound fills the atmosphere. It constantly evolves and undulates, seemingly self-creating, just like the evening mist that gently floats through the maze of ferns and thickets of shrubbery. It sounds like insects, but this time of year is too soon after winter for the six-leggeds to be reproducing. Surprisingly, the trilling is toads.
In the distance, amid the loose debris of the forest floor, a subtle soothing chorus of spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) can be heard as well, the earliest frogs in the spring to call in this area. They call from the pools and puddles caused by the spring melt waters and previous winter rains. Their crescendo of nighttime whistles from amorous males are as much a sign of the end of winter as the return of migratory birds. Spring peepers are very small, only about an inch to an inch and a half long. Rarely do I get to see one — I have stood right by the pond where they are calling and suddenly shine a flashlight into the shallow water only to see nothing. No movement — just dead leaves on the pond bottom. Oy, these guys have good camouflage! Spring peepers will also climb and lift themselves up out of the water on twigs and stems, perhaps to make their call carry further.
Most people from the city don’t know what they are, thinking they are a kind of insect like a cricket.
They start calling here in late April, and they will continue calling into June when these small wet areas begin to dry up. In May other species start to join in. They usually sing after dusk, and stop when the temperature gets down to about 12 C (53 F). Though they may start up for a short chorus during the day, if it is cloudy and rainy.
Duration: 65 minutes 33 seconds, Size: 90.0 MB.
Darkness in the Amazon rainforest sneaks up on you swiftly and silently like a hungry snake going after its prey. Suddenly, against all expectation, it pounces on you violently, swallowing you whole into its belly.
Through the opening of my humble grass hut, as I laid in my hammock, I witnessed a rush of vibrant colors: a flash of crimson, a moment of magenta, a sudden burst of red, then — blackness!
The racket of birds and monkeys died as quickly as the sun, and night was ushered in by a horde of strange new voices: the warbling of tree frogs, occasionally accented with the bark of larger frogs, the chirping of bats and the shrill chorus of insects, the snoring sounds of unidentified animals and the distant howling of monkeys.
I grappled for my headlight as I ventured out of my hut and into my dugout canoe in total darkness and headed down the river. I casted my gaze upwards. The sky was dotted with countless sparkling stars like I had never seen, so unmuddled and clear that the constellations were apparent.
Lost somewhere amongst them was a full moon shimmering its pale light upon the water, regaling my eyes with incandescent sparkles of eternal rapture. I sat speechless, transfixed and gasping for air in a chimerical dreamlike aesthetic haze, wondering how one could describe such beauty without comparing it to something else. Words seemed clinical and inadequate.
Not even a poet could do it justice — it was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in all my years of living. I was humbled. My mind melted and I absorbed with intensity all the strange noises creeping out from the jungle’s silhouette as I glided through the velvety darkness in complete awe.
A moment later, I became aware of a subtle light, a deep rich amber refulgence dawning from far away, beyond the partly sealed rim of my weary eyes. It was a cloud of fireflies dancing about, fluttering and reeling in ecstasy, suffusing the night with a savory surreal bioluminescent mise en scène. Pandering to my infantile compulsions I paddled closer to catch one in my hand.
I doubted seriously if anything could top what I had already recorded but, incidentally, I had noticed with my ears something strange yet infinitely alluring — the environmental noise-to-signal ratio in this area of the jungle was remarkably high, and it was entirely natural. I pulled my canoe up onto the bank of the river, switched on my light and ambled about deep into the forest until I was satisfied with an excellent stereo arrangement, set up my equipment and pressed RECORD.
Sleepy Jungle Slumber contains no fade-in or fade-out and can be seamlessly played on repeat without any sudden distractions. Digital stereo binaural recording. Bitrate encoded at 192 kbps for quality listening.
Duration: 62 minutes 00 seconds, Size: 85.1 MB.
Winter is over and spring is in the air. In Spring Nocturne, we are treated to a surround-sound panoramic symphony of distant spring peepers, one of the first among many vernal ensembles to announce the season’s arrival.
The air is flowing with hazy white mist, the calm quiet midnight atmosphere vibrates with the deep spacious stillness of their hypnotic lullaby, and we hear the sweet accompaniment of the trilling of toads and chorus frogs that join in every now and then (whose vocals sound similar to running a finger along the teeth of a comb).
They are collectively awakened by the thawing of the earth as they slumber in their winter beds underneath a thick insulating layer of leaves and soil, and for 62 minutes we are pampered with the regal ambience of their melancholic crooning.
Usually they will begin to stir and peep during the warmer and rainy nights of spring, and even when there are still a few traces of snow and ice sitting on the edges of their ponds, they are not at all deterred — they just slip themselves under the ice and either drift about freely or hang onto a straying leaf or stick or other floating debris.
By the middle of April the male peepers will stake out their positions around the periphery of these ponds and puddles as they sing their little hearts out to entice the female peepers. It may take a few nights of intense singing, but in due time these considerably selective females will become attracted to certain males. The male peepers with tiptop voices draw in the most females — although with thousands of them singing all at once, it is difficult to single out just that one perfect voice.
Early mating this time of spring allows their newborn tadpoles to mature before the sweltering heat of summer starts to dry up their puddles and ponds. However, the only problem with doing this is that they may encounter a deviating “late” spring freeze. Once the youngsters are mature, they will spread out over the land to feast upon insects at night, and rest during the warmth of the day. Sexual maturity won’t be reached until they are about 3 to 4 years of age.
As long as the weather conditions are warm and/or humid, the harmonious tumult of peeps and whistles carries on uninterrupted. If the weather becomes cool, the singing takes a temporary interlude until the next warm spell.
By early June, the singing ceases altogether except for the one or two odd loud mouths. It’s no coincidence that these little frogs awaken just as the first bugs of spring begin to appear. On the same nights that I first hear these peepers, my windshield can always be found covered with bugs (which are also just rewakening).
People often wonder how it is that these tiny little creatures can make so much noise but, in direct relation to its petite size, the spring peeper is apparently one of the loudest animals on Earth! The male spring peeper has a special sac attached to his throat that allows him to sing — using this sac, he squeezes air over the vocal cords and proceeds to amplify the sound by extensively inflating his throat into a large balloon-like bubble, and this produces an ear-piercing high-pitched peeping sound that can be heard for almost 2 kilometers away. The females don’t have this kind of fun — only the male peepers are endowed with this magical sac!
Spring Nocturne is a non-looped natural soundscape composed of an hour-long on-location digital stereo binaural field recording. This recording technique produces a three-dimensional audio image when listening with earphones or headphones. There are no other sounds of birds, insects, people, cars, planes, wind, rain or water. No layering effects were used. Bitrate encoded at 192 kbps for finest audio reproduction.
Duration: 73 minutes 48 seconds, Size: 101 MB.
During my travels around the globe, I have come to see the Earth differently. For me, it is quite eloquently a solar-powered jukebox.
The more sunlight that is readily available for plants to grow, the more available energy there will also be to power a particular ecosystem’s bioacoustics. Sunny places are, for the most part, louder places (for example, tropical rainforests). Ergo, darker places are quieter places. To put it in a nutshell — as you go towards the equator, the Earth gets louder; as you go towards the poles, the Earth gets quieter. (This effect is also naturally complemented by the fact that sound travels faster in warm air as compared to cold air; and sound just as well travels farther in humid air as compared to dry air.)
Jukebox Earth plays a variety of different tunes. Select any given set of latitude and longitude and you will hear an entirely different melody. The more time that any given location has had to further evolve to develop more complex, more ecologically intertwined relationships, the more symphonic the music becomes. Glaciation, logging, and other forms of devastation drastically reduce the composition back to elemental forms, where the composition begins to slowly rebuild again in rhythm, diversity, complexity. I’ve met people who have the uncanny ability to correctly identify a place, the corresponding season, and time of day based on the environmental sounds alone.
Plant life is essential to understanding the distribution of natural sounds and how sounds behave in such environments. Fauna is so dependent on flora for survival, it can be said that the vegetation can be interpreted as the musical score. From the plants and vegetation alone (i.e., structure and composition), it is possible to predict the kinds of animal sounds and other events that are likely to occur at other times of the day or year. I like to pretend that the plants themselves have voices, and this illusion is helpful as a conceptual sound designer when I am given only a photograph or video clip and must correctly apply the respective sounds.
The Earth is music, spinning in the deafening silence of space; and nowhere is this heard ever more clearly than in the Amazon Basin at daybreak. The sun has just risen, mist is flowing and swirling in the humid morning air above the warm jungle canopy, and the first rays of light can be heard as the stillness of chirping crickets and rasping cicadas grows punctuated by the resonating songs of birds at dawn.
Distant howler monkeys eagerly join in the forest’s awakening chorus, insect-like calls of poison dart frogs and whistled notes of wrens and antbirds permeate the atmosphere, and surround-sound is being recorded as deep cries of wild animals parley amongst one another in 360 degrees around my binaural omni-directional microphone pair.
This forest is remarkably clean — constant ticks and snaps and thuds of distant branches can be heard falling to the ground as they climactically concede to the rainforest’s warm temperature and humidity, favorable conditions for decay which keep the forest looking fresh and forever young.
What you hear is the interaction between fauna and flora, untouched by human development, which has formed from tens of millions of years of complete ecological symbiosis. Every inch of the forest is alive, and the closer you listen, the more life you will hear. Everything moves, everything breathes. Everything is animated with music and energy. Listen long enough, and you begin to hear the gentle side of the always-awake jungle spirits.
Daybreak on the Amazon Basin features a long 15 second fade-in/fade-out at the beginning and the end. Encoded at a bitrate of 192 kbps for better listening quality. Listen with headphones!
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- Karen Ramirez BFA