“It sounds like a choir, it sounds like angel music.”
God’s Chorus of Crickets is a composition by experimental musician Jim Wilson that he says is made exclusively from audio recordings of crickets—one track of chirping recorded at normal speed over another track slowed way down.
The results are positively unearthly.
“I discovered that when I slowed down this recording to various levels, this simple familiar sound began to morph into something very mystic and complex,” says Wilson. “Almost human.”
God’s Chorus of Crickets was first composed in 1994, and has since been heard by millions, moving listeners throughout the world.
“The first time I heard it, I swore I was listening to the Vienna Boys Choir, or the Mormon Tabernacle choir,” says musician Tom Waits, calling the song his favorite piece of music. “The sound is so haunting. I played it for a friend, and he looked at me as if I pulled a Leprechaun out of my pocket.”
Could the story behind Wilson’s ethereal creation possibly be true? As Waits notes, the piece’s vocals seem otherworldly—a far cry from the familiar hum of a late summer eve.
No doubt, crickets sing—or rather, chirp. But only the males, who produce the sound for several different reasons. The most common is to attract females, where a male may switch over from making a loud and steady chirp (a calling chirp) to a quicker and softer one as a female comes nearby (a courting chirp). Males also chirp as an act of aggression toward other males, or as a danger alert.
To chirp, the cricket rapidly moves one specially adapted wing over another—one with something like a tiny ice scraper on it, the other with a series of wrinkles. When rubbed together, sound emerges; think of running a fingernail along a comb’s teeth, or strumming a guitar pick across strings. Its tempo varies according to weather, and lore has it that a listener can convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 14 seconds and adding 40 (others assert the formula is counting to 15 and adding 37).
But are crickets magical enough to be the exclusive source behind God’s Chorus of Crickets?
In a video exploring the origin story behind the composition, the truth of the piece is unmasked. The video demonstrates that while Wilson’s sound does indeed entirely derive from recordings of crickets chirping, the audio is manipulated.
“It is clear the sounds have been digitally sampled and played over a keyboard,” declares the video’s unnamed narrator. “If you look closely at the spectrogram, harmonics have been added to the source recording to make it sound more musical. Jim Wilson recorded crickets in his back yard, slowed them down, but then played them over a keyboard to create the sensation.”
Though the origin story proves to be a myth, that doesn’t discredit a larger truth God’s Chorus of Crickets implies: there is little in this world as lovely as the joyous sound of crickets, their soothing rhythm rising as early autumn dusk falls upon Maine’s fields and woods.