Grand Tetons by Lang Elliott Distant “reverberant” American Robin singing in the forested foothills of Grand Teton National Park. 5am, 7 July 2011. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience. >> Direct Link To Recording

While browsing through recordings I gathered in 2011 during an expedition to the Rock Mountain region, I stumbled across a real jewel that I had totally forgotten about. In the foothills of the Grand Tetons near Jackson Lake, Wyoming, I recorded a dawn chorus that features a lone American Robin singing in the distance (with another chiming-in at times, especially near the end). The robin’s songs are highly reverberant, due to the mixing of echoes off the surrounding hills, and perhaps even the trunks of the tall trees.

I’ve recorded many a robin through the years, gathering both closeups and more distant renditions. Distant singers are always more reverberant than close singers, but I don’t think I have any other robin recordings with this much natural echo. How lucky I was to capture this revealing soundscape!

Francisco Lopez, a nature recordist and soundscape artist, made a great point in the liner notes of his CD entitled “La Selva. Sound environments from a Neotropical rain forest” He said, in reference to frogs: “As soon as the call is in the air, it doesn’t belong to the frog that produced it anymore.” This rather enlightened notion that can be equally applied to birds or any other sound producing organisms. Once the sound leaves the throat of the singer, it is altered by the surroundings and in a sense becomes “married to” or “fused with” the environment. Therefore, the sounds we humans hear are always embodiments of this marriage. We don’t hear a lone bird singing, we hear the bird and its habitat singing as one.

To me, this lovely recording is deeply immersive when played at moderate to low volume. The reverberation informs the listener that the singer is distant and inhabiting a highly reflective environment … in this case deep forest and hilly terrain. The overall effect is soothing, mesmerizing, and (potentially) highly meditative. I am so grateful that I captured this soundscape, which I had overlooked until now.

Please let me know what you think of this recording and what effect it has on you, the listener? And do you understand the notion that this recording demonstrates, that the song you hear is a manifestation of the whole, of the robin revealing a sense of place through song … or, alternatively, of the habitat receiving and transforming the robin’s song to create a larger and more inclusive voice that illuminates and reflects the whole.

NOTE: Some folks have complained that they can no longer play the audio in my blog posts. If this is happening to you, please email me with details.

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