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GUEST,Futwick Insects and Music (46) RE: Insects and Music 21 Apr 13


Other instruments reminiscent of the cicada calls include the sitar and other Indian instruments that give off that twangy drone as well as the so-called Jew's harp. In the old Greek legends that Socrates related to Plato was one that cicadas were once humans who loved to sing so much that they neglected to eat and drink. That last part is true. Adult cicadas don't take in much if any nourishment during the mating season--they prefer to sing and sing and sing.

As for early human musical expression being accidental and a result of trial and error, I'm not sure what that even means. I'm pretty certain the first humans to express themselves musically did so quite deliberately and almost certainly looked to nature and likely admired the tremendous volume that even a single cicada can muster up and sought to duplicate it.

I once watched a documentary shot in Africa where they were tracking lions. A group of natives led a camera crew into the veldt and came upon a lion in the distance dozing in the shade of a tree. They needed to get him up and moving in a certain direction and did it ingeniously. They brought with them a big drum-like thing. It looked to be about a foot and a half in diameter and about as deep. It had a membrane stretched over one end while the other end was open. The underside of the membrane had a tuft of some kind of hair attached to it in a manner I couldn't see. This tuft was coated in wax--probably beeswax. Several hundred feet away from the lion and well hidden, one man held the drum-thing under one arm and with his other arm, reached into the open end and gripped the tuft of hair between forefinger and thumb and pulled, twisting his wrist as he did so. The friction caused by the wax made a rough screech that was amplified by the diaphragm and large resonance cavity amplifying the low frequencies so that it sounded incredibly like a lion's roar.

The guy pulled on the tuft twice producing two short roars and the dozing lion's head just shot up instantly looking in the direction of the sound. Clearly, it thought it was hearing another lion. They moved back a couple of hundred feet and the man gave another couple of pulls and that ol' lion was up and moving towards the sound. Its body language was so obvious: "Who DARES to trespass on MY territory?? Who has the gall to ignore all my territorial markers and brashly intrude on me?? Who DARES to challenge my authority?? I'll hunt you down and kill you!!!"

That's no accident. The people who made this lion drum knew exactly what they are doing and why. An ingenious way to get a lion to move without putting yourself in danger.


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