41 seconds of a chickadee (and friends) in the back yard

Each year, when spring springs, Sarah and I rekindle conversation about the song of the black-capped chickadee. I once referred this particular species as a “minor-third bird,” since it’s call, as I heard it, consisted of a descending minor third. Sarah scoffed and said that I should be embarrassed. “It is clearly a descending major second and you, a teacher of aural skills, ought to be ashamed of yourself!” (Or something to that effect.) I asked my father to weigh in on it, but the upper of the two pitches coming from his own yard was a little out of his aural range.

This year I decided to do a bit of research and found that the interval isn’t as consistent as any of us had assumed. It varies from one region to the next and from one individual to the next. A single bird might even change the interval gradually over the course of a season. And, of course, it’s unlikely that these chickadees were fitting their songs to an equal-tempered dodecaphonic tuning system.

After lunch this afternoon, I heard one in the yard and recorded it for posterity. Amidst all the other bird/traffic/neighborhood noise, you can hear a solitary chickadee singing it’s signature tune. (Sarah wasn’t interested in sticking around. You can hear her closing the back door a few seconds into the recording.)

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32 seconds of clashing music at the Potsdam Fall Festival

Potsdam, it seems, has a “Fall Festival” now. I don’t know much about its provenance, but I assume it’s just the latest in a series of half-assed events organized by the chamber of commerce as an opportunity for stores to sell their shit outside instead of inside and for local “craftspeople” to re-sell some shit they bought in bulk online. They’ve also started roping off areas of public parks and charging entry fees for exclusive experiences. Can you tell I’m not a big fan?

We went down anyway and hung out at the newly constructed playground in Ives Park (I helped build it!). We bought some shawarma from a food truck/tent and listened to a band playing rock covers in the gazebo (even though we didn’t pay for this exclusive experience!). Then, at the nearby farmers market (which may have been part of the festival, it’s not clear), the Crane Latin Ensemble started their set. This would have been fine, except they were less than 100 yards away from the amplified band in the gazebo. Some bozo had scheduled both performances at the exact same time. (Or, perhaps, some bozo organizing the festival hadn’t consulted with the organizers of the weekly market.)

Regardless, it sounded pretty neat, if a bit cacophonous. And it was perfectly appropriate for Ives Park!

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42 seconds of Otis singing in the shower

Live accompaniment or not, Otis was VERY excited about his winter concert. He was singing all of the songs for months leading up to the concert and continued to sing them for quite some time after (as evidenced by this session in the shower before bed).

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78 seconds of the kindergarten winter concert

I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t just sing along with recordings when I was an elementary school kid in a concert. But that’s what they seem to do exclusively at Otis’s school. Whatever. It’s fine. But it does lead to situations where the voices and recording are wildly out of sync with one another! Dig this jazzy, uptempo arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” for example.

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119 seconds of car sounds recorded under the Champlain Bridge

On one of our many trips down to Western Mass., we made a stop at Fort Crown Pt. to stretch our legs. The weather was perfect, so we spent some time walking around the old ruins. At one point, Otis and I decided to hop over one of the stone walls and explore under the (new-ish) bridge. The cars passing overhead made some interesting sounds.

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33 seconds of talking to Otis on a tin can phone

I think the seed was planted when we read something in a book. I changed a dinner plan to use some canned beans and cleaned the receptacles when we were done. I poked holes in the bottom and used a long length of brown hemp twine to connect the cans. We took them outside for a test run.

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