Ancestral cricket song
Slow summer crickets
Slow summer crickets [5:06 · download]

 

There’s deep mystery right in your own backyard.

One warm September evening I took my microphones into the urban garden behind our house. It was an ordinary late summer evening, laden with the familiar sounds of birds settling down for the night, of pedestrians walking home after dinner out with friends, and of male field crickets (family Gryllidae) warming up for the night’s concert.

But notice what happens when the “calling” songs of these crickets are slowed down to ¼ normal speed: each “chirp” unfolds into a delicately shaped sequence of four pulsed notes. The last note is ever so slightly accented. You can almost hear this hopeful creature reaching out across the gathering dark, competing against his equally persistent male neighbors for the attentions of an unseen, distant female: “Lis-ten to me!… lis-ten to me!… lis-ten to me!…”

He has every reason to be so insistent: should he fail to find a mate before the winter snows come, the unique genetic message entrusted to him by his ancestors millions of years ago will perish forever.