Apr 15, 2021

The Septendecennial Sing-Along

Every 17 years, a deafening sex orchestra hits the East Coast -- billions and billions of cicadas crawl out of the ground, sing their hearts out, then mate and die. In this short, Jad and Robert talk to a man who gets inside that noise to dissect its meaning and musical components.

While most of us hear a wall of white noise, squeaks, and squawks....David Rothenberg hears a symphony. He's trained his ear to listen for the music of animals, and he's always looking for chances to join in, with everything from lonely birds to giant whales to swarming cicadas.

In this podcast, David explains his urge to connect and sing along, and helps break down the mysterious life cycle and mating rituals of the periodical cicadas into something we can all relate to.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

David Rothenberg making music with the cicadas. Courtesy of David Rothenberg/Bug Music

A visual breakdown of the cicada mating calls:

Courtesy of John Cooley and David Marshall at UConn. For more on cicada mating calls, take a look at this paper from Cooley and Marshall.

A close-up of cicadas getting down:

Courtesy of David Rothenberg/Bug Music

Enjoy a free download of our favorite track from David's CD Bug Music -- here's the description from the liner notes:

Katydid Prehistory: Named in honor of Archaboilus musicus, the 165 million year old prehistoric katydid, whose fossil remains reveal an ability to sing distinct pitches.

Katydid Prehistory

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Listener-supported WNYC Studios.

JAD ABUMRAD: Wait. You're - (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JULIA LONGORIA: OK.

JAD ABUMRAD: All right.

JULIA LONGORIA: OK.

JAD ABUMRAD: All right.

JULIA LONGORIA: You're...

JAD ABUMRAD: Listening.

JULIA LONGORIA: To RADIOLAB.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: RADIOLAB.

JULIA LONGORIA: From...

JAD ABUMRAD: WNYC.

JULIA LONGORIA: See?

JAD ABUMRAD: Yeah.

JULIA LONGORIA: (Laughter).

JAD ABUMRAD: Hey. Jad here. So this spring, many of us - some of us are starting to emerge from a year of being stuck at home or apart from our friends and family. And we are not alone - we humans, that is, because there is something else emerging in the coming weeks from the ground to sing and dance and make babies and try not to get eaten. And that something is cicadas. There is another brood about to awaken after 17 years of slumber and about to swarm many places across the country. So in their honor, I thought we might replay this old piece of ours, which we made the last time there was a big cicada awakening around here. It was - this is from 2013. It's pretty fun. Very Robert Krulwich. I'll just say that. And here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ROBERT KRULWICH: All right. Here we go.

JAD ABUMRAD: Hey. I'm Jad Abumrad.

ROBERT KRULWICH: I'm Robert Krulwich.

JAD ABUMRAD: This is RADIOLAB, the podcast. And today...

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS BUZZING)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: What's so interesting about the cicada sounds is when you just hear it for the first time, you just hear white noise. You just hear shhh...

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS BUZZING)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: ...Just noise. But when you learn what's going on, you can hear the different parts of the orchestra.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: That's David Rothenberg, composer and professor and writer. And what he's going to do is he's going to take that huge wall of insect sounds...

JAD ABUMRAD: Soon to be upon us.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Soon to be upon us and get really into it, really start to dissect it.

JAD ABUMRAD: Whoa.

ROBERT KRULWICH: But what he really loves to do, really, is he likes to play music with animals. So he goes around and finds individual animals or groups of animals to duet with. And if you don't mind, Jad, I'd like to just go - just introduce you to a few of his strange escapades.

JAD ABUMRAD: OK.

ROBERT KRULWICH: One of the first times he tried this was with a...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Well, that was a white-crested laughingthrush.

ROBERT KRULWICH: A white-crested laughingthrush.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Because, you know, before I met the white-crested laughingthrush...

ROBERT KRULWICH: I love the way you're able to bring that up...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Right.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Because if you ask an ordinary person like myself to say white-crested laughingthrush, it's hard.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: It should be much more well-known because the white-crested laughingthrush is one of the best birds.

ROBERT KRULWICH: You mean the white-crested laughing...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Thrush, yeah.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Thrush.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Washington has them. Bronx Zoo has them. They thrive very well in zoos. What they do is they sing duets, the males and females, together.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: So that's animals singing with animals. But here's what he did. He went to the National Aviary, which is in Pittsburgh.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: First I stepped into the big, tropical aviary, where you wander and the birds are flying freely. It's a big, warm, kind of moist space.

ROBERT KRULWICH: He got there...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Before the aviary opened, like 6 a.m.

ROBERT KRULWICH: And there were - when he walked into the cage, there were dozens of different kinds of birds flying around.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And I was walking with my clarinet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: Playing, you know, up to the trees.

JAD ABUMRAD: Why is he doing this?

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, he just wanted to see what would...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: That's him, by the way. And he wanted to see what would happen.

JAD ABUMRAD: All right.

ROBERT KRULWICH: And, as it turns out, nothing happened.

JAD ABUMRAD: (Laughter).

ROBERT KRULWICH: The birds just more or less ignored him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: By then I was kind of - lost interest. Like, nobody's paying attention to this. This is a bad idea. And then all of a sudden...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-CRESTED LAUGHINGTHRUSH SINGING)

JAD ABUMRAD: Ooh, hello.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: The laughingthrush was interested.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: That's the thrush.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: One little guy, brown feathers, dark beak.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And at that moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Anyone would say, hm...

JAD ABUMRAD: Oh, they're, like, doing call and response.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Yeah.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: This is interesting. Something's happening here. This bird and this clarinetist are doing something together.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: So as you're playing, what's going on in your mind at this point?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: I was just imagining I was sitting down with a musician who I maybe couldn't talk to, spoke another language besides English. And I couldn't talk to this musician. *****

DAVID ROTHENBERG: *** but I could make music together with him.

(SOUNDBITE OF THRUSH AND CLARINET)

ROBERT KRULWICH: OK, so that was his encounter with a thrush. Let me take you on another little adventure just before we get to our big thing. This is a - can I just do this? Are you paying attention?

JAD ABUMRAD: Are you asking me for permission?

ROBERT KRULWICH: I am.

JAD ABUMRAD: Then, no. No, you can't.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, I'm not going to ask you then. I'm just doing it.

JAD ABUMRAD: Good.

ROBERT KRULWICH: After a variety of bird duets, in which I'm sure he frustrated many a thrush...

JAD ABUMRAD: (Laughter).

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...He then did a duet with an entirely different animal.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUMPBACK WHALES)

JAD ABUMRAD: What the?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Yeah, well, humpback whales, the best thing about that story is nobody knew they sang until the 1960s. So you can trace...

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, I'm - don't whales spend most of their time except for the tops of them underwater?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: They do.

ROBERT KRULWICH: So where would you be?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Good point. I was broadcasting my clarinet through an underwater speaker...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: ...Listening with headphones to what's coming out of an underwater microphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And you hear...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: ...This duet from down there - live clarinet and whale.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

JAD ABUMRAD: (Laughter) This is so bizarre.

ROBERT KRULWICH: (Laughter).

JAD ABUMRAD: What does the whale make of this?

ROBERT KRULWICH: I - we don't - I don't speak whale.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: The thing about humpback whales is unlike most animals, they change their songs from year to year. They're interested in new sounds. So all the humpback whales in any one ocean are singing one song, and then they change it altogether. No one knows why. Why do they want to change their song if they all want to sound the same?

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, when you sang your song with the whale, did the whale react like the thrush?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: I think it's different, but I would say the whale seemed to change what he was doing.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Now, it can be a little hard to hear exactly what David's talking about - it took me a few listens to pick out the distinguishing moment - but here's what the whale was doing when David showed up.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

ROBERT KRULWICH: It was doing this thing where it would go whoop and then down and whoop and then down...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Over and over. And here's what it started doing a few minutes after he'd been playing the clarinet.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

ROBERT KRULWICH: The whale kind of extends the note.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Whales tend to go (imitating note going up and down) and clarinets tend to go (imitating steady note). They play a steady tone, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And so the whale was trying to play a more steady note.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHALES AND CLARINET)

JAD ABUMRAD: Maybe? I don't know.

ROBERT KRULWICH: You can't hear that? Just a little bit of an extended line? It's (imitating steady note) instead of (imitating note going up and down). It's (imitating steady note).

JAD ABUMRAD: I mean, it's awesome. You know, don't - I love listening to this, but I don't - I mean, I don't - it just sounds like the whale's still doing whale.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, David says that when he played the recording to some of the - to whale scientists...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: They all are shocked.

ROBERT KRULWICH: All?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Every scientist I played that to was - did not believe that what I played them was actually a live recording. They thought I'd done something to it, which I didn't.

ROBERT KRULWICH: I mean, they'd never heard a whale make a sound like that, I'm assuming.

JAD ABUMRAD: Which implies that the whale was reacting to his clarinet?

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well...

JAD ABUMRAD: Because maybe the whale was just saying, shut up.

ROBERT KRULWICH: (Laughter).

JAD ABUMRAD: Shut up, up there (laughter).

ROBERT KRULWICH: (Laughter) Well, however you want to resolve it, like, we should move on to the real purpose of our gathering here this afternoon...

JAD ABUMRAD: OK.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Or whatever time you're listening to this...

JAD ABUMRAD: 2:00 AM.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Which is that he then turned to this sound right here.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS)

JAD ABUMRAD: The plague. Kidding of course. It's just a bunch of cicadas. But when we come back from break, we will dig into that sound and find out that it is much more than at least I ever thought it could be.

BECCA: Hey, this is Becca (ph). I'm calling from Dallas, Texas to let you know that RADIOLAB is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.

JAD ABUMRAD: *** Jad - RADIOLAB. We are back. And Robert Krulwich is leading us through a dissection of the dreaded sound - the sound of millions of cicadas freshly awoken from their 17-year slumber.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS)

ROBERT KRULWICH: And when you and I hear it, I mean, it just sounds like an enormous block of monotonal noise.

JAD ABUMRAD: Yes, sir.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Just screech, you know? An elaborate screech.

JAD ABUMRAD: Annoying.

ROBERT KRULWICH: But David says, actually, if you know what's going on in here, if you learn to dissect it, well...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Pretty soon, you can pick out up to nine separate sounds made by the three related species of cicada that are there at the same time.

LYNN LEVY: Can you walk us through the nine different sounds?

ROBERT KRULWICH: Yeah.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Oh, at least some of them.

JAD ABUMRAD: By the way, that was our producer, Lynn Levy.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: OK. We have three basic species that come out. Whenever there's an emergence, they're all there.

ROBERT KRULWICH: So I didn't, you know, realize that this - when you're walking through the woods and you hear this enormous white noise, what you're actually hearing are three different kinds of cicadas, three different species singing three very different songs that are all mixed together so you can't tell them apart. And then each one of those songs, each of those three, has three parts, which is how you get to the number nine. In any case here are the three species. This is number one.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Magicicada cassinii makes the white noise sound - (imitating Magicicada cassinii).

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA CASSINII)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: (Imitating Magicicada cassinii).

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA CASSINII)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And they swell together. They synchronize, so they'll all go (imitating multiple Magicicada cassinii).

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE MAGICICADA CASSINII)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: (Imitating multiple Magicicada cassinii).

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE MAGICICADA CASSINII)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And then they fly around a bit - do that now. Jump up from your seat. And you get back in, and you do it again - (imitating multiple Magicicada cassinii).

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE MAGICICADA CASSINII)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: There you go.

ROBERT KRULWICH: OK, so that's species number one. Now here is species number two.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Magicicada septendecula is making like, (imitating Magicicada septendecula).

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECULA)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: It's kind of irregular.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECULA)

ROBERT KRULWICH: So that's the bebop guy.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Kind of, yeah. And there's fewer of those, and they're quieter, so less is known about them.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Can I hear that one again?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: (Imitating Magicicada septendecula).

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECULA)

ROBERT KRULWICH: So we got the white noise one, the bebop one. Now here's number three.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Magicicada septendecim, the most popular or known sound. And that's going - the pharaoh sound - pharaoh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

JAD ABUMRAD: Wow.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: (Imitating Magicicada septendecim).

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And the thing is, when you actually hear millions of them, all you hear is (imitating multiple Magicicada septendecim).

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: If you take one and multiply it hundreds and then thousands of times, its tail disappears. You just hear this tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

JAD ABUMRAD: I mean, this is what we hear, but what would the cicada hear in all this?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Ah, well, this is the whole story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, see the thing about cicadas is that the cicadas who sing here are the males, just the guys. And they sing for - it's a mating song, really. You know, there are lots of songs you sing. This is a...

JAD ABUMRAD: (Laughter).

ROBERT KRULWICH: It's one of those kind. And the idea being...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: The females hear all this sound, and they find the males.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Like, the grand mess of music, like a disco, or it's called the lek by biologists, which pretty much means disco anyway.

ROBERT KRULWICH: (Laughter).

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And then...

ROBERT KRULWICH: If you were a guy looking for a date, you might not join with lots of other guys, but these animals join together for what purpose?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: So the females can find them.

ROBERT KRULWICH: But if you've got, like, a billion cicadas crowded into a disco, then how do you - how does a single male and a single female notice each other?

JAD ABUMRAD: They don't have to. They just bump into each other, and then it's on.

ROBERT KRULWICH: No.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Seventeen years ago, John Cooley and David Marshall discovered things were more complicated than that. They discovered the females make a sound after the male finishes his sound.

ROBERT KRULWICH: So say you're one of these males...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Going, pharaoh...

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: ...Pharaoh...

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And the female has to make a wing flick - (imitates flick sound). This tiny little flick - (imitates flick sound) - exactly one-third of a second after the male stops.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Really? So it's like, pharaoh...

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGLE MAGICICADA SEPTENDECIM)

ROBERT KRULWICH: (Imitates flick sound).

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And ***

DAVID ROTHENBERG: *** nobody imagined such a thing was going on. They didn't imagine insects were doing anything this complicated.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, for one thing, it sounds like that would be a male to female bit of business, one to one. When you listen to all these animals, you don't think they ever have a one of them. There are, like, so many of them.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Millions of males are making the pharaoh sound. But when you're close to one, you know, the female hears, pharaoh. If there's one close enough, she makes the wing flick, and the male knows to approach her a little bit. And he goes on with the second sound. It's called by John Cooley court two. Court two is like...

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADA SCREECHING)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Pharaoh, pharaoh, pharaoh, pharaoh. And then she makes the wing flick again.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Same one?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: As far as we know.

ROBERT KRULWICH: OK. Now, where does that tell Mr. I love you guy?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: It's time to start mating and make the third sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS CHIRPING)

DAVID ROTHENBERG: It's more like, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut (ph).

ROBERT KRULWICH: Let's do that again. So your hello is, pharaoh.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Yeah.

ROBERT KRULWICH: I'm getting closer is, pharaoh, pharaoh, pharaoh. And now we're kissing, et cetera, et cetera, is, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: So now you know. When the cicadas come and you hear this massive roar, what you're really hearing is an orchestra of sex. Just think of all these little animals getting ready to do what they were born to do, what they've been waiting 17 long years in the ground to do. And all the while, it's the songs that matter.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: They're, like, following these little rules, simple rules that - together, it shows how very simple organisms can create things of great complexity and beauty. Each individual doesn't have to know that much about the whole, and still, interesting things happen, which gives you a different view of human life. You're one little part in this giant thing. You don't have to really know what's happening, but you're doing your little bit for the whole of creation or evolution or life or music. And you do your own little thing, and you're not sure where it leads.

ROBERT KRULWICH: But for the individual cicada, for Tommy Cicada or Betty Cicada, it's all pretty simple. They have their sex. They lay eggs on twigs of trees. The eggs hatch. And then tiny little larvae cicadas will fall to the ground, and then they'll burrow into the warm earth.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: And attach themselves to the roots of trees.

ROBERT KRULWICH: And then start sucking the fluid from tree roots. And they will do this for years and years and years.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: 'Cause they're slowly growing.

ROBERT KRULWICH: And then for some reason that nobody can quite fathom, at the exact same moment, it's body time.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: There are different broods of them. So different years, you can go somewhere in the country, and maybe there's some coming out.

JAD ABUMBRAD: And why is it that the one that's about to come out here in the Northeast - why does that happen only every 17 years? Why 17?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: The honest answer is we really don't know. We do have some evidence of how they keep track of the years, which is that the cicada monitors the temperature. We don't know how, but that's what they pay attention to.

ROBERT KRULWICH: So in the ground, they're not just eating tree juice. They're also - they got a little thermometer.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Somehow they're paying - they have a little counting thermometer. They count the number of years, and then they know when to come out. A few years ago in my parent's house, I did see one in the wrong year. You know, every year a few of them wake up. Where's the party?

ROBERT KRULWICH: Oh, really? You have Rip Van Winkle ones.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Yeah. Not - they don't always count correctly, you know?

ROBERT KRULWICH: Oh, really? That must be...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Yeah.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...A lonely experience.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Yeah, the lonely cicada looking for its kind - the wrong year, the wrong place.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Can they go back down and go back to bed? Or is it...

DAVID ROTHENBERG: I don't think so.

ROBERT KRULWICH: The jig is up.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: They've changed. They've come from their larval stage, and the wings have come out. They can't crawl back and lose the wings.

ROBERT KRULWICH: Oh.

LYNN LEVY: Did it sing, that lone cicada?

DAVID ROTHENBERG: Oh, yeah. It was singing.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADA SINGING)

LYNN LEVY: To no one.

DAVID ROTHENBERG: To no one, to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADA SINGING)

ROBERT KRULWICH: You can kind of imagine David picking up his clarinet...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...And joining in.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT KRULWICH: Thanks to John Cooley and to David Marshall. And now Jad wants to say something...

JAD ABUMBRAD: What do I want to say?

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...About Lynn Levy's favorite song.

JAD ABUMBRAD: Oh, and if you go to - yes. And if you go to radiolab.org, you can download a song from David Rothenberg's album chosen by our producer, Lynn Levy. It is her favorite song. You can download it for free. Also, David Rothenberg has a new book out called "Bug Music."

ROBERT KRULWICH: And if you happen to be on the East Coast, we have a - well, you can do this from any coast you like. But we have a map where you can track where these little critters are popping up.

JAD ABUMBRAD: Which they're doing right now...

ROBERT KRULWICH: Yeah.

JAD ABUMBRAD: ...Just barely.

ROBERT KRULWICH: In Georgia and in the Carolinas and...

JAD ABUMBRAD: Not in Brooklyn yet but soon. I'll be frying them up, making some tempura.

ROBERT KRULWICH: No, you won't. No, you won't...

JAD ABUMBRAD: I'll be making tempura.

ROBERT KRULWICH: ...Because the little guy will come up to you and go (imitating cicada) on your leg.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERT KRULWICH: He'll drop to the ground and burrow into the earth, and we won't see you for - I don't know. It'll be, like, either 13 or 17 years.

JAD ABUMBRAD: Thanks for listening. I'm Jad Abumrad.

ROBERT KRULWICH: I'm Robert Krulwich.

JAD ABUMBRAD: See you in two weeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID ROTHENBERG'S "PLAYING INTO THE MACHINE")

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