23 August 2016

Where we got our music

After about half an hour, the wind began to funnel down from the high southern pass, gaining force with each passing moment. A Venturi effect caused the gusts passing upstream through the narrow gorge to compress into a vigorous breeze that swept past our crouched bodies, the combined temperature and windchill now making us decidedly uncomfortable. Then it happened. Sounds that seemed to come from a giant pipe organ suddenly engulfed us. The effect wasn't a chord exactly, but rather a combination of tones, sighs, and midrange groans that played off each other, sometimes setting strange beats into resonance as they nearly matched one another in pitch. At the same time they created complex harmonic overtones, augmented by reverberations coming off the lake and the surrounding mountains. At those moments the tone clusters, becoming quite loud, grew strangely dissonant and overwhelmed every other sensation... 
[Our guide Angus Wilson, a Nez Perce Indian] took us a cluster of different length reeds that had been broken off by the force of wind and weather over the course of seasons. As the air flowed past the reeds, those with open holes at the top were excited into oscillation, which created a great sound -- a cross between a church organ and colossal pan flute... 
Seeing recognition in our faces, Angus then took a knife from the sheath at his belt and...selected and cut a length of reed from the patch, bored some holes and a notch into it and began to play...[Then] he turned to us and, in a measured voice, said: "Now you know where we got our music. And that's where you got yours, too."
from The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause

Thanks, Andrew Ray, for the reminder of this.

Photo by Edward S. Curtis 1911, wikipedia

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