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.
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Hello, Lang – This reminds me of how much I enjoy the “good night” calls of robins in the distance. Because you took the trouble to explain the importance of careful listening to the recording I decided to use my headphones instead of speakers and I did feel as if I were there and close to the action. Thank you.
Alice: Thanks for trying headphones!
I do see what you mean about the bird sounds mixing with their environment. I think this is especially pronounced because of the echoing. I meditated to this and it was wonderful. Thank you so much.
You’re welcome Lorraine.
Absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing. A gem!
Thank you Connie!
Lovely! The reverberations give a wonderful sense of place and open space.
although it was mature forest, the trees were big and the understory was quite open.
“Robin revealing a sense of place through song” — I love that! Here in a sense the robin exposes topography and place. This reminds me of a cardinal I once heard singing, and the echo off a distant building wall face gave the impression of another male, call and response– but it was in fact one bird, its exact song reflected back to it.
Catherine: I’ve had particular trouble with Whip-poor-wills. I’ve mistaken echoes for a distant individuals counter-singing. And vice versa … what I’ve thought were echoes turned out to be other individuals.
Really lovely. Thank you.
You know what they say. . . . “The early bird catches the worm!” You go ROBIN 🙂
I love what you say about the sound being married to its environment. So true not just of sound but of all experience and all beings! A great meditation to listen to this weaving of sound into place. Thanks!
Yes … all things everywhere are part of a greater whole.
I wish I was there. !!!!!!
And I wish I could go back there … right now!
Heavenly, this is the song of the soul. Peace, be still, en-joy. With deep gratitude, Lang. Keep mining your archives for more ‘lost’ treasures. We LOVE them!
Thank you Sharon … and I’ll certainly keep mining for lost treasures, along with receiving new treasures from nature whenever I can. : >)
exquisite. And yes, I get it, but it is great to have you point it out. It does create a sense of place, not just the place where it was recorded, but a place in memory, for me.
I like that it creates “a place in memory” for you. That is more than I could hope for and tells me I should pay lots of attention to describing the place, so as to provide the mind with the best visualization possible. I need to think about that more while I’m actually on location, possibly jotting down notes that will help me re-visualize it later, when I’m writing up a post.
Great idea. Your description added so much to the recording for me.
Hi Lang, since your return for a week off, a few weeks back, I am unable to listen to any recordings, Nothing comes through. I’ve tried cancelling my account, then sign up again to receive newsleter, to no avail….can’t get any sound….. Had no problems prior….help!!! Any suggestions as what to do. my husband can’t seem to retrieve sound either….or am I up sh*ts creek?
Horrible news. What platform are you listening from? iPad? And did you by chance update the iOS?
Makes it sound as if you are ‘out there’ where I am not. Very nice!
That’s one of the main objects of recording binaurally … it imparts of sense of being in a 3D environment, with the nature sounds seeming to come from “out there,” as opposed to from within a person’s head.
Thank You Thank you for sharing these and taking us with you on your auditory journeys! Little did I know when I purchased my sounds from you, that I would be enriched so much! I love the reverb, with my headphones on, it feels like I am there!
love the natural reverb. i wonder if they hear the difference in their song in different places-if they might choose a place where an echo happens. woodpeckers certainly seem to know how to choose the right places to make the most drumming noise.
Remember, though, that the singer does not hear it’s own reverberations … it is too close to its own song. It does, however, note the reverberation of the songs of neighbors and uses that information to determine how far away another singer is. Biologists have studied this. It’s not that a bird necessarily chooses a reverberant environment, but birds certainly can make use of nartural reverberations to determine the exact whereabouts of neighbors/competitors.
If people can be like different birds, I swear I would be a robin. I NEVER miss my morning coffee with the robins at the crack of dawn. They are every bit as enthralled with an early start as I am.
Long live these cheerful greeters of the dawn!
At the “crack” of dawn? That’s around 4:35am right now here in upstate New York. I’m often out there when the first bird sings, and robins are always among the first.