In a short time, we have climbed a thousand metres and the landscape has changed completely. Finally. It is quite humid. Monteverde is an eco-tourism resort, but that doesn’t mean it’s a marvel. In fact, I strongly doubt that the large numbers of people coming to this kind of place care about the environment or protect it.
Such spaces may mitigate the effects of indiscriminate access to nature, but Costa Rica is a small country and its forests are small as well. The Monteverde Cloud Forest biological reserve belongs to the Centro Científico Tropical (Tropical Science Centre), which manages it and, among other responsibilities, issues a certificate of sustainable tourism.
We have come to the place where yesterday we first heard a fascinating birdsong. The sound is strangely metallic, as if it were caused by ring modulation, that process that was so ubiquitous in the electronic music of the sixties. The moment I think this, a new sound takes centre stage in my acoustic field: I can’t be sure whether or not it’s the singing of one of those batrachians that sounds like a siren. Suddenly, all the animals are at a distance. It’s as if they saw us. Surely, they saw us. Usually, when we set up to make a recording, it’s a good while before the sound order is restored. But soon something changes. It looks like our incredible bird wants to come over to us. It’s not clear yet. It’s hard to speak of perspective when the general background source is as sparse as the singing of the insect colonies we now hear nearby. It’s time for the birds to come out, but we can tell they are still too timid, like the batrachians, also quite infrequent.
This place is evocative. It is presided over by an old ceiba, home to many other plants; probably hundreds of plant and animal species. From time to time, I hear something that sounds like wooden furniture rubbing against a wooden floor. I heard it a while ago, but I was too interested in other sounds. The number of planes of sound is impressive this afternoon, but our target, the bird with the metallic, crystal-clear song, moves away to the bottom of the valley and for a while leaves us alone with the rhythmic cantus firmusof a more persistent bird. Now, the main common denominator for all sounds is that they occur sporadically. The wind is also sporadic when, as yesterday, it shakes only the treetops. For a while, the only sound that persists is that of the batrachian/siren. I become aware of him when the other sounds leave the scene, but at last the bird with metallic, crystal-clear song arrives and, for a few seconds, the sounds that had been so persistent thus far fade away. It’s not that she arouses fear or commands respect in the other animals, because they resume their tasks and she, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings, continues her song, so strange, so subtle. The creaking of wood also returns, and a second later, when the storm roars in the distance, the wind shakes the highest branches again and gives way to the electronic colouration of the beginning, now of a more common songbird – I would simulate it with a frequency modulation on the cut-off frequency of a resonant-filter – which comments on the storm. Slight movements of the trees, a breeze and a distant storm that, if it were constant, would sound like an aeroplane. But no. It is a simple storm and, when the bird that’s modulating the resonant filter sees fit to chime in, some nocturnal insect timidly invokes it.
Hesitantly, the night cicada, a cricket, perhaps, begins its song. There is a honking sound that punctuates our bird’s sentences. A few drops fall and this seems to give way to new nocturnal insects that go quiet once again. They have not yet settled into their song. The rhythmic cantus firmus from time to time stops and starts again. The storm is approaching and our bird stays at a safe distance from us. It never gets too close. Time goes on. Cicadas making music to a clef beat are becoming more frequent and the metallic and crystal-clear singing becomes more electronic when the dominated intervals fluctuate between major and minor sixths. The jungle comes alive when two of these incredible birds sing and together build colour contrasts in the overlapping frequencies. These clashes of sound particles produce sparks, and although they start from different basic frequencies, the melodic content is transposed from one bird to another.
The bird that has been modulating the resonant filter frequency is enormous. I saw him when he was changing trees. The clef cicadas, which fly as they sing, surround us slowly, but pass by as the song of metal, glass, and wind, which persists in its electronic sixths, approaches us. Finally. Persistence is what nature requires. I hear him in this place with his repeated sixths and sometimes ending in a frequency modulation, similar to that of the little bird, but less intense. The storm is roaring threateningly and the drops, only a few for the time being, are heard as they fall around us. I am surprised to suddenly become aware that the squawking has stopped.
Carlos has decided to continue the recording for a while longer, because the soundscape is becoming even more interesting. The bird with the mysterious song is nearby. He is accompanied by others with a repetitive song who answer one another in the distance. The night cicadas seemed to be getting stronger, but they are like yesterday’s cicadas: they come and go. In this jungle, everything is trembling. The song of metal, glass and wind contains not only sixths. Major and minor fourths and seconds also come in, but the musician likes the repetition of fourth or sixth intervals, which it emits with a colouration similar to that of the wind sounds of flutes.
There is a long rumble of thunder. It seems the bumblebee wants to mimic it, as does a subsequent ruffling of wings and something unidentifiable a little further away. Wind instruments and ring modulation with a certain frequency modulation. Modulated sinusoids and an enormous bird perched on a nearby tree. I see her. I’d say it’s a vulture, but that doesn’t seem to fit here. Its hissing sound is a bit distant, like the low rumble, which tells us that perhaps the storm no longer threatens us. While our magical bird continues its unpredictable song, the others, ignoring it, call out to their friends and the lone giant persists in hissing again, with dubious success: we do not hear any other members of its species. Neither nearby nor far off. Solitude.
Now that we are leaving, the song of glass, metal and wind seems to want to seduce us with its greater proximity and new variants. Ascending and descending minor thirds accompany the keynote cicadas, which dance around us. The jungle has rewarded our silence.
Nord 10 18.156 – Oest 084 47.447 · 16.04 · 16.04.201
Sons en Causa
Sons en Causa és un projecte de l’Orquestra del Caos basat en el registre del patrimoni sonor propi d’una sèrie de contextos culturals on a l’entorn mediambiental, a causa del creixement econòmic, són previsibles canvis irreversibles a curt i mitjà termini. Les diversitats cultural i biològica, encara enormes, són massa fràgils. Mereixen ser tingudes en compte i la seva gran importància, divulgada. El patrimoni intangible, i amb ell, el sonor, està seriosament amenaçat en molts llocs del món. Un cop produïts els canvis que ara ens semblen inevitables, els sons, i amb ells les seves causes, hauran desaparegut per sempre.
Enregistraments: Carlos Gómez