Angel music
October 8, 2013 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Tom Waits (on Robert Wilson): "Wilson, he's always playing with time. I heard a recording recently of crickets slowed way down. It sounds like a choir, it sounds like angel music. Something sparkling, celestial with full harmony and bass parts - you wouldn't believe it. It's like a sweeping chorus of heaven, and it's just slowed down, they didn't manipulate the tape at all. So I think when Wilson slows people down, it gives you a chance to watch them moving through space. And there's something to be said for slowing down the world."
posted by naju (37 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds better than that Justin Beiber song slowed down.
posted by 13twelve at 8:31 AM on October 8, 2013


Oh geez, that's a weird URL. Here's a proper one.
posted by naju at 8:32 AM on October 8, 2013


Mmm, the choir parts aren't actually the crickets though? Or? I mean, really, they didn't manipulate it?
posted by symbioid at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2013


I'm wondering if this means that Tom Waits invented zombie rave
posted by 13twelve at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2013


I'd like to hear just the slowed down track without the real-time chirps superimposed. That really is something.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones of which Waits speaks with a massive overbearing wash of regular speed cricket chirps. Is there anywhere to hear just the slowed-down version?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:39 AM on October 8, 2013


A comment on the soundcloud was implying that a lot of things sound like angel choirs when slowed down a lot.
posted by zscore at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2013


I think this is a hoax.

Most of the other recordings online seem to be samples of this same one. It is not clear how this was produced or how the choir sounds emerge.

I did find these other recordings of slowed-down crickets (scroll down) and they sounds more like what you would really expect.
posted by vacapinta at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


A comment on the soundcloud was implying that a lot of things sound like angel choirs when slowed down a lot.

I don't agree. We've heard things slowed down before (Justin Bieber, Sigur Ros, whatever.) It certainly creates a thick pad-like effect. But Waits is right that there's a full complement of very musical harmonies and bass parts operating here, and those (appear to be?) latent in the actual sounds the crickets are producing, not in the stretching/slowing-down effect. But now that I've read vacapinta's comment, I'm questioning whether this is real too.
posted by naju at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2013


I did find these other recordings of slowed-down crickets (scroll down) and they sounds more like what you would really expect.

On the other hand, the slowest there is 1/8 speed, while the claim in the link is that they slowed it by the same ratio as cricket lifespan to human lifespan, so maybe something like 4 months / 75 years = 1/225.
posted by stebulus at 8:57 AM on October 8, 2013


I like that this post came directly after the one with a tom waits lyric in the title
posted by mulligan at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently it's an extended and remixed version of a 1992 recording by Jim Wilson & David Carson. More Tom Waits talking about it in an interview...

"Q: Most interesting recording you own?
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.
"

A bunch of the links to that original recording lead to new age woo-woo sites, which certainly doesn't help to dispel the hoax argument. (I WANT IT TO BE REAL THOUGH. HELP ME MOTHER GAIA)
posted by naju at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2013


A friend sent this to me a couple weeks ago. I was skeptical, and learned that this was appropriated from a tune called "Twisted Hair", from a 1992 album "Dream Song" by the Little Wolf Band.

Furthermore, the only places that mention "angelic choruses" are religion-oriented sites. Every one of the Youtube videos I've found are the EXACT same recording (variously awash with chorus and reverb effects); I'd expect to find at least one example of the "raw" version of the slowed-down cricket song by itself without the regular chirps layered over it. I can't find anything to oppose my suspicion that someone took part of a song off that cheesy new-age album and made up the "slowed down cricket song = angelic chorus" story out of whole cloth. I could be wrong, but until I see better evidence I'm calling shenanigans!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Mmm, the choir parts aren't actually the crickets though? Or? I mean, really, they didn't manipulate it?"

Yes and no. Slowing down the crickets is itself manipulating the sound, and everything slowed down using the Paulstretch application sounds kinda like this, but it also seems to be exactly what it says on the tin - so I guess your miles may vary.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2013


I would be reluctant to believe anything Tom Waits says. For example: "An all night donut shop at Ninth and Hennepin in Minneapolis. Chuck Weiss and I are having coffee at the counter, late, caught in the middle of a pimp war between two 13-year-old kids. One outside on the street, firing live ammunition, the other running into the cafe, diving behind the counter, unarmed, and screaming, "Leon you're a dead man!" A toothpick dispenser hurls toward the street, the beater of a blender, a spatula, and a handful of forks. Bullets hit the stove, a framed dollar bill, a china dog. Chuck and I drop to the floor while the jukebox pounds out "Our Day Will Come" by Dinah Washington. Each bullet changes the selection on the Wurlitzer to a different song, each more poignant than the one before."
posted by sleevener at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well I personally feel ashamed to have posted faux-religious horsery. Feel free to delete with the full force of your mod powers, mods.
posted by naju at 9:30 AM on October 8, 2013


Can someone just make a recording of crickets and then process it to compare? I live in a cricketless zone (sadly) or I'd volunteer.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2013


I found a recording of some beatles slowed down by 800%
posted by Pendragon at 9:47 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]




I happen to have some tracks of crickets on my computer (I like making ring tones, don't ask), and I am personally unable to recreate this using just Audacity's pitch and time shift filters. I end up with something that sounds more akin to squealing brakes than choirs of angels. Maybe it's because I'm only using single insect samples, instead of a chorus but I am somewhat skeptical.

I found my samples here if anyone else wants to try this at home.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Radiolab did a nice podcast where they analyzed the songs of cidadas in great detail. Spoiler: no angelic choruses.
posted by moonmilk at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2013


Angel music.
posted by Floydd at 10:59 AM on October 8, 2013


800% is only slowing down 8 times. If the numbers above are half way accurate, this should be two orders of magnitude more slowing than that. In which case, DSP artifacts from the slowing down would completely obliterate any trace of structure one could rationally attribute to the original signal.
posted by stonepharisee at 12:05 PM on October 8, 2013


> DSP artifacts from the slowing down

BieberSlow and Beatles slow use time expansion. This is supposed to be an analog tape played slowly which can be done with good fidelity digitally. The result should be lower and longer. It's not a pitch shift, but a resampling.

I think you'd need a whole field full o' crickets to possibly sound like an angelic chorus. The sample I sampled at 1f2frfbf's page was a solitary one.

Cycloptilum slossoni's dominant frequency is 6.9kHz, so to keep it in human hearing, 50x or so is about the slowest you can go. 225x is going to end up 30Hz which might make good a good wub wub bassline.

Off to find some software....
posted by morganw at 12:45 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here are some crickets slowed down 20x with pitch not preserved.
posted by morganw at 3:18 PM on October 8, 2013


It does sound nice, but yeah. Count me firmly in the "obviously not real" camp.

Stuff like this makes me kind of sad. Cricket chirping is already amazing and really interesting, but apparently it needs to be glammed up.
posted by lucidium at 5:06 PM on October 8, 2013


Knowing this is fake makes the Soundcloud comments so much fun, especially if you insert "Little Wolf Band" in the appropriate locations.

"I now know why I have always loved the evening chorus...[because it sounds like Little Wolf Band,] beautiful beyond words!"

"Not to sound morbid but I would be ok with [Little Wolf Band] being the last thing I would hear when leaving this earth..."

"nature's ambient music... more beautiful, more subtly changing, than anything a human [other than Jim Wilson, of Little Wolf Band] could ever make."
posted by Bugbread at 5:09 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe Robert Wilson and Jim Wilson of Little Wolf Band are related.
posted by maggieb at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2013


Just to attack from a different angle, I tried isolating and speeding up the choral sample. This is pretty much the opposite of a rigorous analysis, just sort of playing around with Audacity:
  1. Sample of original track (mp3 audio) (spectrograph)
  2. Original put through a high-pass filter [cutoff@7kHz, 48dB/oct rolloff] (mp3 audio) (spectrograph). This demonstrates that, as morganw pointed out, most of the energy from the cricket noise is below this frequency.
  3. Original put through a low-pass filter [cutoff@1kHz, 48dB/oct rolloff] (mp3 audio) (spectrograph). This gets rid of most of the cricket noise.
  4. Audio from step 3 sped up to 700% (mp3 audio) (spectrograph). This sounds way more musical than any cricket I've heard, but still feels pretty cricket-like and leads me to believe that there were at least some cricket samples in the original 1x audio.
Perhaps, though, we are overthinking this.
posted by caaaaaam at 5:29 PM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surprisingly, a Paulstretch of actual crickets sounds AMAZINGLY boring. Seriously. I'll post some links once I've finished converting and uploading.
posted by Bugbread at 5:31 PM on October 8, 2013


Since the initial claim was that the cricket song was slowed down by the same ratio as cricket lifespan to human lifespan, I used Paulstretch, which turned Justin Bieber into such sublime music, to slow down a chorus of crickets. I wasn't sure whether the "cricket lifespan" referred to just the imago stage (1 month) or included the larval stage as well (for a total of 3), so I slowed it down to both 1/320th and 1/960th of original speed.

Prepare for the celestial majesty of crickets slowed down with Paulstretch to 1/320th speed.
If you thought that was amazing, allow yourself to be filled with the heavenly rapture of crickets Paulstretched to 1/960th speed.
posted by Bugbread at 6:02 PM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


theodolite, that cartoon is amazing. Thanks for sharing that.
posted by mintcake! at 6:06 PM on October 8, 2013


Dial-up modem sound, 700% slower. Sounds like angels (on an absinthe bender).
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:19 PM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Perhaps, though, we are overthinking this.

Oh Google Image search, I do so love thee.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:46 PM on October 8, 2013


The sawtooth pattern of the sound as it looks on Soundcloud appears to be an indication that this sound is the result of replication. By my count, the same sample has been repeated a total of four times.

The following times roughly mark the beginning of the same sample as it repeats:

00:00
15:42
31:24
47:06

My guess is that the "real time" crickets provide some amount of cover for the edits that combine all the copies together.
posted by hgswell at 10:07 PM on October 8, 2013


Well it's an hour-long "extended" version of a 15-minute recording, so I don't think that means anything.
posted by naju at 10:48 PM on October 8, 2013


Just get to the chorus already. Geez.
posted by malocchio at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2013


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