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Musical Space: What Do Crickets Sound Like Slowed Down?

Jordan Kirtley

Click the Listen button above to hear Mark Foley's examples.

Internet lore has it that the sound of crickets, when slowed down, sounds like humans singing. I think trying it is the only way to see if it’s true, so let’s give it a shot.

This is the sound of one cricket chirping: (Ex. 1)

If I slow this sound to one-tenth the speed, it sounds like this: (ex. 2)

Beautiful, but not very human-like to me; maybe more like a large bird.

So, what if we had a large number of crickets? Would it sound like a human choir? Let’s find out; here’s a cricket orchestra: (Example 3)

And here’s our cricket ensemble, slowed again by a factor of ten: (Example 4).

I put a filter on it to favor the frequencies of human speech. What do you think? It doesn’t sound very human to me, though the way the crickets’ sounds interfere with each other lends it a certain effect, maybe like a bad choir trying to hit a high note.

So, my results are inconclusive, but the eerie beauty of this sound makes me glad we did the experiment.

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.