Claim: A slowed-down recording of crickets chirping sounds like a human chorus.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, November 2013]
Origins: Many listeners have been fascinated by a recording that was supposedly produced from slowed-down tapes of crickets chirping, producing something that sounds remarkably like a human chorus:
"I discovered that when I slowed down this recording to various levels, this simple familiar sound began to morph into something very mystic and complex ... almost human."
A: It's a mysteriously beautiful recording from, I am told, Robbie Robertson's label. It's of crickets. That's right, crickets. The first time I heard it ... I swore I was listening to the Vienna Boys Choir, or the Mormon Tabernacle choir. It has a four-part harmony. It is a swaying choral panorama. Then a voice comes in on the tape and says, "What you are listening to is the sound of crickets. The only thing that has been manipulated is that they slowed down the tape." No effects have been added of any kind, except that they changed the speed of the tape. The sound is so haunting. I played it for Charlie Musselwhite, and he looked at me as if I pulled a Leprechaun out of my pocket.
Apparently the cricket sounds were originally recorded by the late Native American producer/musician Jim Wilson and used, with overdubbed lyrical narration, for the song "Twisted Hair" (also known as "Ballad of the Twisted Hair") which was issued on a spoken word and musical exploration album credited to Wilson's Little Wolf Band (along with Wilson's uncle, David Carson). An extended, digitally remixed and mastered version of the cricket recordings was also issued on Wilson's CD release God's Chorus of Crickets, described as follows:
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
The recording can be played continuously in the background to create a natural soothing atmosphere for peace, serenity, and healing direct from Mother Nature.
And when I heard them, I was so ashamed of myself, I was so humbled, because I had not given them enough respect. Jim Wilson recorded crickets in his back yard, and he brought it into the studio and went ahead and lowered the pitch and lowered the pitch and lowered the pitch. And they sound exactly like a well-trained church choir to me. And not only that, but it sounded to me like they were singing in the eight-tone scale. And so
They were saying cricket words. I kept thinking, 'Oh, I almost can understand them. It's a nice, mellow tone. And they never went off pitch until one of the interludes, where they went real crazy and they got back on again to where they were. And I know that people do not know that they're listening to crickets unless they're told that that's what that is.
Nonetheless, even if the original recording featured nothing other than the sounds of crickets chirping, exactly what was done to those sounds to create the finished piece remains a subject of contention. Critics contend that Wilson didn't simply slow down a continuous recording of crickets chirping; they interpret his statement that he "slowed down this recording to various levels" and Bonnie Joe Hunt's reference to Wilson's "lowering the pitch" several times to mean that he used multiple recordings of crickets, each slowed down by a different amount to produce a specific pitch, and layered them to create a melodic effect sounding like a "well-trained church choir."
Last updated: 5 January 2015