Show #168: Songs from Birds, Frogs, Whales, and…Even Humans!

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<!-- missing image -->I will admit – this is an experimental playlist. I’ve had all these CD’s and LP’s out for some time, while I contemplated whether a show featuring and inspired by the melodic sounds from our animal friends made any sense. Now that I’ve recorded it, I’m still not sure whether all you listeners will find it interesting. But with all the screaming and shouting heads of this political season, I thought it would be a nice change to listen to some “natural conversations.” Perhaps some might even find certain tracks to be soothing or mesmerizing.

That said, let’s start with composer Graeme Revell, who made this 1986 album before his big jobs scoring action movies. For The Insect Musicians, Revell traveled to Africa and Asia to record various species. We hear “Dance of Shadows,” featuring sounds of beetles, bees, cicadas, wood wasp, and other insects.

We move on to a track recorded by a couple of French guys, who took their digital recorders into the Amazon and captured the sound of the Camichis Cornus bird. Colin Turnbull‘s legendary Congo recordings come next; he was one of the first cultural anthropologists to record the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest, way back in the late 1940’s and 50’s.  The hum you hear is from the ungainly portable reel-to-reel tape recording machine that field recordings were made with back then.

We head north to Hungary next, hearing the Scops Owl, a resident of the Carpathian Basin. We then fly south to hear sounds of the Amazonian rainforest as captured by Douglas Quinn, including the song of the Green Orenpendola, one of the most unusal birdsongs I’ve heard. We leave the ornithological world and check out a North American frog next, with a croak that sounds more like a car alarm than anything else. That’s it for the smaller species.

Next we hear sounds of the biggest pachyderm and the largest whale: the elephant and blue whale. The Thai Elephant Orchestra is just that: a group of Thai elephants (smaller than the African elephant) playing various gongs and percussion instruments.

Paul Winter and Paul Halley (sax and pipe organ) conjure up the sound and majesty of the blue whale next, in “Blue’s Cathedral.”  They had to speed up the tape to make the sound of the giant cetacean audible, otherwise their callings are below the range of human hearing. The next track is related to whales, too. “Shipping Lane” refers to the danger whales face by huge cargo ships and oil tankers when they get confused and think the ships are other whales. It’s sad news when one of these beautiful leviathans gets hit.

The last two cuts are just for fun. Yma Sumac (who by the way wasn’t Amy Camus from Brooklyn, I have proof dispelling this stupid rumor) grew up in Peru imitating bird sounds in her bedroom. She amazed the world in the early 1950’s with her five-octave range and amazing vocal effects, which you’ll hear on this track.

We wrap it all up with a fun song by the great L.A.-based 1940/50’s musician Slim Gaillard with “Serenade to a Poodle.”  I was once told that Ronald and Nancy Reagan memorized all the lyrics of Slim, who performed regularly in Hollywood during Reagan’s early career.

So there you go. Hope you like it. If you have a dog or a cat chez vous, trying turning up the volume and see what happens.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 7/22/16:

  1. Graeme Revell / “La Danse des Ténèbres” (Dance of Shadows) / The Insect Musicians / Musiques Brut
  2. Pierre Huguet / “Camichis Cornus” (Horned Screamer) / Forests of the Amazon / Sittelle
  3. Colin Turnbull and the Mbuti / “In the Rainforest Approaching a Forest Camp” / Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest / Smithsonian Folkways
  4. Various Artists / “Scops Owl” / Bird Songs from the Carpathian Basin / Hungaroton
  5. Douglas Quinn / “Dawn Chorus, Green Orenpendola” / Music by and from Birds / Apollo
  6. Various Artists / “The Green Treefrog” (Hyla Cinera) / Sounds of North American Frogs / Smithsonian Folkways
  7. Thai Elephant Orchestra, Dave Soldier, and Richard Lair / “Rainforest” / Thai Elephant Orchestra / Mulatta Records
  8. Paul Winter / “Blue’s Cathedral” / Callings: A Celebration of the Voices of the Sea / Living Music Records
  9. Roly Porter and Cynthia Millar / “Shipping Lane” / Pod Tune: Whale/Human Collaborative Music Project / Pod Tune
  10. Yma Sumac / “Chuncho: The Forest Creatures” / Voice of the Xtabay / Creation Records/The Right Stuff
  11. Slim Gaillard / “Serenade to a Poodle” / Laughing in Rhythm / Verve Records

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