Superb Lyrebird

Mimics the sounds of the rainforest, from Kookaburra to chain saw.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(9 Votes, average 3.56)
Loading...

The male superb lyrebird attracts females by probably the most extravagant animal call in the world. The male mimics all the sounds from the forest, includeing the calls of other birds. Ones brought up around manmade sounds impersonate the roar of a chainsaw, the screech of a car alarm and the click of camera shutters. Lyrebirds display this vocal virtuosity not just during the breeding season, implying the calls are not just about finding a mate but also used to defend territory. During the breeding season they use a display mound to sing from for hours, with the calls travelling up to a kilometre through the forest. The BBC video of the Lyrebird is very funny and was voted by viewers as their favourite Attenborough moment.

Location

The map shows the location of Healesville Sanctuary but the Lyrebird can be seen elsewhere in south-eastern Australia.

Echo, Château de Chinon

A strange local rhyme exploits this distinctive echo.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(10 Votes, average 2.00)
Loading...
This way to the echo

How can a Sound Tourist resist a road sign pointing towards an echo? Despite having no decent sound recording equipment, no aptitude at speaking French and ignoring the fact I was wearing a cycle jersey of dubious taste, I attempted to capture the event on my mobile. You might need to turn up the volume to hear the echo.

A description of the echo appears in the Rough Guide to the Loire which describes a traditional local rhyme which exploits the timing of the echo:

Me: Les femmes de Chinon sont-elles fidѐles

Echo: Elles?

Me: Oui, Les femmes de Chinon

Echo: Non!

Which translates into English as:

Me: Are the women of Chinon faithful?

Echo: Them?

Me: Yes, the women of Chinon

Echo: No!

And I can confirm the description is correct –  by that I mean the echo rhyme really works, I know nothing about the faithfulness of Chinon women! The echo is a reflection from the side of the chateaux and is beautifully clear (if a little quiet for recording on a mobile).

Location

If you exit the Château visitors’ centre northwards away from the town (it seems like the back entrance) you’ll pass L’Echo de Rabelais. Across the road you’ll see a big sign to the echo vineyard close to the smaller sign for the echo. Follow the small Rue de l’Echo for 200m and you’ll find a small raised vantage point. A

Stonehenge Replica

Experience a impression of the ancient acoustics of Stonehenge.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(10 Votes, average 3.20)
Loading...

What was the acoustic like within Stonehenge thousands of years ago? It’s difficult to get an impression at the real Stonehenge because too many stones are missing or displaced. However, a trip to this complete replica in the USA gives an impression of the old site. The replica was built as a monument to those who died in World War 1. Although made from concrete rather than stone, the acoustic within the circle is similar to the original.

Rupert Till explores how a drum beat is changed by the stonecircle.

The effect of the stones can be heard by comparing these two recordings. The first is a recording of clapping away from the standing stones out in the open and the second a recording of clapping within the stone circle. The sound can be heard to ring and reverberate within the stone circle – it is surprising how long each clap rings for, considering there is no ceiling on the stone circle to stop the sound disappearing into the sky.

Clapping away from the standing stones out in the open
Clapping within the stone circle

Location

The Maryhill Stonehenge is part of the Maryhill Museum of Art three miles east of the museum just off Highway 14.

Credits

Sounds from Bruno Fazenda University of Salford and Rupert Till University of Huddersfield

Coloured Canyon

A place to hear nothing. Although you might be surprised to find out when you get there, that your body isn’t as quiet as you think.

We’re not used to hearing complete silence. Normally there’s sound around us: the distant drone of traffic noise, leaves rustling in the wind, the hum of insects, etc. To find complete silence in nature, you need to travel to places which have little vegetation (so there are no other animals about) and you need to find a spot which is sheltered from the wind, or travel on a windless day. A good spot to hear absolutely nothing is the depths of the Coloured Canyon in Sinai. And according to Adam Lawrence who suggested this place “Oh, it looks pretty good too.”

Location

Tours are available from hotels on the nearby red sea coast (Gulf of Aqaba side of Sinai). Getting there involves a long jeep ride and a hike. Leave early in the morning to avoid the heat and to get there before too many people ruin the quiet.

Credits

Photo by Tanya Dedyukhina, CC BY 3.0

Whistled language

Use to communicate over large distances.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(6 Votes, average 5.00)
Loading...

How do you communicate over large distances on a mountainous island full of deep ravines? On La Gomera in the Canaries, inhabitants developed a whistling language to save themselves long and arduous treks. Maybe we should all use it when the network coverage is poor.

The whistling mimics the sounds of the local language, using variations in the notes to represent words. Indeed, brain scans show that listeners are exploiting the same parts of the brain used in normal language processing when interpretting the whistling.

Although other places in the world have whistling languages, this one is unusual because it’s so sophisticated and practised by thousands of inhabitants. Indeed, the island habitants learn the language at school. It’s importance has been recognized by Unesco.

Waiter demonstrates language for tourists

Location

La Gomera in the Canaries

Credits

  1. Sound extracted from BBC interview
  2. vilb (c) some rights reserved
  3. Suggested by Bernard Berry

Singing roads

A road which plays tunes using rumble strips.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(13 Votes, average 3.92)
Loading...

Want to listen to a poor quality, out-of-tune rendition of a famous melody when driving your car? No need for an expensive car stereo, a singing road can do this using wheel vibrations.

If you drift off the side of a road and hit a rumble strip, you’ll get a distinctive sound intended to alert you and prevent an accident. The pitch of the sound you get depends on the spacing between the bumps or ridges. So if you make lots of ridges like a rumble strip and vary the spacing between the ridges correctly, then different musical notes can be made. Close together ridges (say 6mm apart) give high notes, and far apart ridges (say 12mm apart) give low notes. Make the right pattern of ridges then as a car drives over them, a tune is played. Mind you, in most cases the sound quality is pretty poor, and if the car is at the wrong speed it sounds even worse. Rather amusingly, when Honda tried to create such a road for an advert, they got the spacing wrong and so their version of the William Tell Over­ture was very out of tune. Here is my acoustic analysis of the road.

Videos of musical roads in USA, South Korea, Japan and Denmark

Location

In City of Lancaster, USA, the road is found along the westbound stretch of Avenue G between 30th and 40th Streets West. It was moved from its original site following concerns about noise disturbing nearby houses.

Alternatively, the Japanese have the most melody roads: twelve listed here. Suggested optimum driving speed is 28mph (45km/h). Those shown on the map are:

  • Hokkaido: drive west
  • Route 370, Wakayama prefecture, plays Miagetegoran Yorunohoshiwo
  • Numata-shi, Gunma prefecture, plays “Natsuno Omoide (Summer Memories)”

The road in Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea is meant to play Mary Had a Little Lamb when driving at 100 Km/h and was designed to help motorists stay alert. However, the videos I have heard all sound pretty terrible and the tune is unrecognizable.

Credits and sources

  1. Map photo: shidax (c) some rights reserved

Singing Ringing Tree

High on the Pennine Moorsthis sculpture uses wind to generate discordant and haunting sounds.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(21 Votes, average 4.10)
Loading...

This piece of public art is high above Burnley on the Pennine moors. It uses the prevailing westerly winds to generate discordant and haunting sounds to accompany the view from Crown Point. It was designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu in 2006 and won a Royal Institute of British Architects award. Not all the pipes create sound – some are just there to create the dramatic shape. The pipes that ‘sing’ create an unearthly choral sound, which is only audible at relatively close range on a windy day.

Location

Local tourist information

Credits

Norias of Hama

The groaning and creaking from these ancient water wheels is remarkable and unexpected.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(10 Votes, average 4.30)
Loading...

Damaged by the on-going war in Syria, I decided to leave this page here as a record of this sound.

The sounds these water wheels make aren’t very pleasant, but maybe sound tourists shouldn’t restrict themselves to pleasant listening experiences.

These gigantic ancient water wheels were used to raise water from the river and drop it into canals to irrigate fields. Although I’ve heard many water wheels, these ancient noria have a really unique and distinctive sound: creaking and splashing as the wood is distorted by the weight of the water and the endless rotation. Given that these are some of the oldest water wheels in the world, maybe they can be forgiven for their groaning and moaning.

Location

On the Orontes River in Syria

Credits and sources

Sea organ

The organ buried in the promenade makes a haunting but harmonious sound through the motion of the sea.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(23 Votes, average 4.00)
Loading...

Driven by waves this organ creates notes at random. Despite the unpredictability of the sounds, overall what is heard is surprisingly harmonious. This happens because the different organ pipes have been carefully tuned to only produce certain musical notes that sound good together [1].

The sculpture is seventy meters long and has thirty-five organ pipes built under the concrete; as you move along the promenade the sounds and harmonies change. The movement of the waves push air in and out of the organ pipes to create the notes. It was designed by architect Nikola Bašić.

Location

Visit Zadar website.

There is a wave organ in San Francisco and also a high tide organ in Blackpool. But the Zadar organ is the most tuneful and effective.

Credits

Tikal pyramids

Echoes off this pyramid create an unexpected chirping sound. But did the ancient Mayan’s deliberately design this sound effect?

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(11 Votes, average 4.55)
Loading...

Tikal was the largest city of the ancient Mayan civilization and is probably Guatemala’s most famous tourist destination. If you stand at the bottom of the pyramid’s steps and clap your hands you get this incredible chirping sound. Echoes off buildings are common, but not ones that distort sound like this. Whether the pyramid was constructed to deliberately make this chirp is still a matter of debate. Reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo. It’s down to geometry, later reflections are spaced further apart – all staircases have potential to chirp.

Location

Website. BTW The wildlife calls in this overgrown, runied city are also stunning: parrots, toucans and even howler monkeys.

Sources and credits

  1. Photo: Raymond Ostertag (c) some rights reserved
  2. Sound (c) sagejock