Music in Nature

"The earth has its music for those who will listen. . ." - George Santayana

When you think about music, you probably don't think about birds tweeting or frogs croaking, but that's music too! Music is all over nature if you know what to look for. Check out these frogs singing in the water:

Did you see the ripples in the water? The vibrations made by the frogs' croaks lined up with the vibrations of the water - we call this resonance. Resonance is when the vibration of sound waves matches the vibrations of a neighboring surface creating a richer deeper sound.

That's just one example of music in nature. Where else can you hear music in nature?


Go outside and listen to what is around you. What do you hear? Write down five examples of sounds you can hear in your backyard. Continue with the lesson after completing the activity.

So . . . What did you hear? I would be willing to bet that you heard some birds singing. Birds use different songs depending on what they are trying to do: like attracting a mate, warding off rivals, or bonding with their young.

Bird songs were of particular interest to the French composer Olivier Messiaen. When Messiaen was serving in the French military during World War II he was captured and taken as a POW (prisoner of war) by the Germans. During his time at the prison camp he wrote his most famous work, "Quartet for the End of Time" which featured music that imitated the songs of a blackbird and nightingale.

After Messiaen was released from the POW camp he continued to write a vast variety of music, all of which was based in birdsong. Messiaen would often risk life and limb to see and hear as many bird species as possible. Messiaen developed a remarkable skill for listening to and then notating (writing down the melodic pitches and rhythms of) the birdsongs. However, he was not perfect, and would often record the birdsongs to revise his notation later.

Check out this video of Messiaen discussing various birdsongs he has used, and listen to how the birdsong sounds in nature and then how it sounds on the piano.

What did you think of the birdsongs? Compare and contrast the birdsongs in nature and Messiaen's version of the birdsongs on the piano. Which do you like better?

Outside Orchestra

What else besides frogs and birds make music in nature? Check back on the list of sounds you heard outside earlier. How many of those sounds were from animals? How many were from bugs? How many from non-living sources (wind, water, etc . . .)?

Create your very own "outside orchestra" by creating different sections of your orchestra based on the sounds. For example: instead of having a brass section your outside orchestra might have a bugs sections, or you might have a bird section instead of a woodwind section - be as creative as you want!

Once you have your sections named, and sounds sorted, try drawing a picture to represent your outside orchestra!

I would love to see some of your creations! Feel free to submit them to me via the homepage or my email

Happy Earth Day!



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