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蛙始鳴 Frogs Start Singing
The Sound of Summer
I was wrong when I said that, of the four seasons, it is autumn alone which is heard before it is seen. In Japan, it is said that autumn first makes itself known by the murmur of the the leaves stirring in the trees; as autumn arrives to our ears carried on the wind.
But only today I realized that summer also arrives on sound-waves.
According to the ancient almanac 暦 koyomi, summer comes after the peonies bloom in early May, when the sounds of frogs can be heard singing.
It starts as soon as the farmers let water into the rice paddies to prepare for planting in early May. With the water comes the frogs.
I don’t know if it’s because my eyesight is growing weaker lately, or maybe it was the sudden quiet of Covid, but all of a sudden I have come to cherish the music of the world around me—so often I think of summer nights in Japan—not of the sights but the sounds. The plum rain or the chorus of the frogs—and later the cicadas.
In March, in Honaka’a on the Big Island, the sound of the crickets and coquil frogs made me smile so much. I know they are a problem on the islands and their singing is usually just solos or duets—not the great choruses of the frogs in Japan, but I slept so peacefully listening to them at night.
Tom Mustill, in his book How to Speak Whale (highly recommend it!), mentions an extinct snail that is believed to have sang in the forests of the Big Island— can you imagine traipsing through misty fern forests and listening to the sounds of singing tree snails?
Following 蛙始鳴 Frogs Start Singing (5/6-10) is Worms Come Forth 蚯蚓出 Mimizu izuru… Liza Dalby, who has a soft spot for worms, writes in in East Wind Melts Ice that in the haiku tradition there is a convention that worms also could sing: “a soft, sad ji-i-i emanating from somewhere in the grass…” Like people gathering to hear the sound of lotus flowers blooming in great pops! the imaginary soundscapes of singing snails and worms really is the magic of the world.
Pulitzer Prize: Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution's Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction, by Haskell, David George
Emergence Magazine: When the Earth Started Singing, by David George Haskill
How to Speak Whale, by Tom Mustill
Earth’s Wild Music, by Kathleen Dean Moore
Smithsonian Magazine, Listen to These Amazing Sounds of Lost Places and Animals Within Them: Prolific audio naturalist Martyn Stewart has released a free collection of his remarkable recordings before his passing