Apr 15, 2021
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.