I wake up and I know something has changed. I hear birds singing different songs. There is a pattern shift. I remember this from before. My brain scans memory looking for a match, a pattern – yes – it sounds like the birds before a rain shower. The birds are singing about rain in the near future. The big gum trees? They are humming and bucking and swaying,gradually louder in a building arc, like big ocean waves getting ready to crest. Yes! It sounds like rain. How do I know? The gang of black birds with long beaks is very nervous and gaggling, not like their normal Rugby scrum gaggle, but more chaotic and disjointed.
On sunny fine hot days the kinda-blue-bird plays a descending major second then repeat that. “HEY! nonny”. But now its a whole different song for this weather, a series of descending thirds. “O you BETter GO inSIDE” The whole place has a feel like people running for the life boats. They all are saying “get ready, get ready!? All this I am informed of by my ears, without looking up.
I walk out and look up. Eyes confirm. Big clouds. Big drop of rain falls on my back. So now I’ve heard it, seen it and felt it. Yesterday out by the waterhole playing a duet with the kinda-blue-bird a similar scenario was enacted – the birds changed their songs, I heard it happen. But I was in headphones listening to contact microphone on the log while drumming. I got so caught up in the patterns I was playing that I missed the message and that I had to run for cover. I was warned and I ignored it.
To be warned and to ignore, that is a very interesting conundrum. That could be a way to think about how we use our ears nowadays. We hear the building storm of noise we create in mad pursuit of what. . . . but we ignore it! Will we get caught in the Big Rain? We hear the coming storm and ignore it. Seeing is believing. Listening is for the birds!
Now the birds have changed their song again. The kinda-blue-bird has gone back to its major seconds. Has the storm passed? Perhaps the birds are not actually like professional weather men. They have nothing to sell. When the pressure passes, they change their song. No big deal. What do you want from a bird?
Sound is a direct readout of all the vibrations around you, of all the energy being expended at that moment.
I hear the jet above me burning fuel, I hear the air pressure system – wind – push a leaf and the tree bend it back with a rustle, I hear the wing of the bird beating air, I hear the intnal combustion engines on the road two miles away and the inflated tires singing on the asphalt as they spin under weight. I hear the air vibrating in the birds throat,beak and body. I hear the vibration of the tall grasses being pushed back and forth against each other in the wind. I hear the beating wings of the fly as it passes near my ear, I hear the fluctuating sunds of a jet passing above the shadows and lenses of the clouds, I hear the density of the moisture particles held by the clouds. I hear the creek of the chair as I lean against its back.
All of this is immediate and direct, the transmission of waves given off by the expenditure of energy. Some of these vibrations are in wavelengths that can be received by human sense organs and if attention is applied some of them can be decoded. But as I’ve fund here in Australia, it is hard to decode something the first time you hear it or feel it. I did not know language of the birds songs for rain the first time I heard them. I only sensed CHANGE in pattern. But after hearing this new song comes the rain. Then the next time if I apply myself and remember, when I hear a change in the birdsong I will know that means rain. Learning a language of sounds. Learning a place.
I come inside to get a new cup of tea. A new pattern o vibrations is registered by my brain. It is the sound of little percussive hits in the frequency range of 600-1000 cycles per second in an irregular rhythm faster than a tabla drummers fingers. This sound echoes in the studio”s bright acoustic. Comes a big Rain. It was the rain song after all!