The virtues of music have long since been exalted—stress buster and a passion or hobby that exudes soulful cheer. In the quest to reap the benefits of musical immersions, we pull out those rusty guitars or tinker with the piano keys. We think of music as man’s creation and boast about our creative capabilities to product this soulful form of art. But wait, music existed much before man did, in its own natural way—amidst nature. And so let’s look back at nature with a musical lens, this Music Day to relive how “nature has music for those who listen”!
- An orchestra in rhyme, what wonderful chimes: A ride through the forest realms, especially in the scorching heat presents a unique orchestra of sorts. The cicadas, invisible denizens of the forest floors, seem to have taken it upon themselves to recreate a musical symphony. From a buzzing blur to a cacophony of chaos, these little musicians of the insect world can take even the largest of animals by surprise with their noise. What’s so unique is that these sounds are not vocalizations, but produced by the vibration of the insects’ “tymbals” i.e. the corrugated exoskeleton on the insect. Basically the cicada pulls in or contracts the muscles that outline its torso, and then suddenly releases it. The insect is able to carry out this action about 300 to 400 times a second, creating a “buzz-like” symphony that looks like it’s orchestrated to perfection- all in unison. Why cicadas make that sound, is to attract females for mating. Now that’s quite a combined effort of musical creation to woo the lasses!
A duet performance, etched in perseverance: Come summer and the koo-koo of the Asian koel may force you out of your sleeping reverie, in what seems like the dead of the night. Sometimes a lone performer in search of the perfect mate, sometimes turning into a duet when a female koel responds to the male. Much has been written in myth-lore about the sweet song of the koel, and many a Hindustani classical compositions is dedicated to this melodious bird. Careful consideration shows that the call rises in intensity and pitch, maybe indicating the rising frustration of the male to find a partner! After all, the search for a suitable mate is the reason why male koels throw around sweat and blood and produce the epitome of musical grace.
- Appearances evoke a melodious galore: Sometimes, it is not just the auditory creations, but the visual treats that take you on a musical journey. One such musical treat to the eyes is the wandering violin mantis, native to India and Sri Lanka. The insect gets its name due to its resemblance to the string instrument, the violin. Its neck is very long and narrow, appearing like the neck of a violin. The best part is that they come in various shades of brown, and its thorax is diamond-shaped, maximizing their resemblance to the harmonious instruments! These features are the perfect combination to make it a miniature violin, not to be played, but to be admired for its bizarreness!
- Swishes of sound, through the wistful boughs: A forest may appear silent on the face of it, but listen carefully, and a whole new world unravels. One sound that produces a relaxing calm as good as a head-massage is the swishing of winds through the forest canopies. Or the howling of winds over the vast wilderness plains. The wind seems to have taken a pledge to dedicate its own to the world of music, albeit in its own way. It may invite a bright red dead leaf to contribute to the sonata, by breaking it free from the branch and have it rustle at it falls to its death.
Whether large or small, living or dead, nature’s elements have a musical way about them, it is only up to us to open up our senses and accept that others can be outstanding musical masters, even without intending to! In fact, seldom do we open up our other senses. How often do we close our eyes and just listen and feel the beauty of nature? This World Music Day, let’s do just that—escape to a nature abode, and experience the melodies of nature.