Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The sound of the summer

AS I write this all I can hear is the sound of cicadas. I live in the middle of an olive grove and so I suppose there must be thousands of the little buggers everywhere and they're all doing that weird thing they do to make a noise.

I suppose, to be fair, I call it a noise, they regard it as communication. But whatever, it is a sound I associate absolutely with summer here on Skopelos. When I used to come here as a holidaymaker, the sound of cicadas was one of the first things I would notice as I got off the plane at Skiathos.

It always seemed quite charming and while it's not the case that I dislike it now, it is relentless and sometimes it would be nice to have a break. Informed sources tell me - I looked it up on Wikipedia - that it is the males that make the noise using a part of their body called a tymbal. The abdomen is largely hollow and acts as a soundbox and so the male cicadas can create a special sound to attract a mate. Be my guest if you wish to draw a comparison with humans....men lacking inner substance, making a lot of noise in the pursuit of sex...nah, silly idea, isn't it?

The sound is quite overpowering and at the hottest part of the day is so loud outside my house that it almost blanks out other sounds. Every now and again, the cicadas stop, even if only for a few seconds, which is quite extraordinary.

Give it a couple of months and the wall of sound will come to an end as the cicadas move on to the next part of their life cycle. To find out more about cicadas, and there are many different types, click here.

Watch this video from the USA to find out what one cicada sounds like and then multiply the effect a couple of gazillion times and you'll get some idea what it's like here.

I called this post "The sound of the summer" and bubbling up through my subconscious came this splendid little ditty from The Members, Sound of the Suburbs.

Question: Have you got a sound you associate with the summer? If you live in the suburbs it might be the sound of drunken young men calling each other various parts of the human anatomy, or it might be slightly older people talking incessantly about house prices. Or it might be the sound of rain pounding on the roof of your tent. Let me know, if I get enough answers we might end up with a scientifically valid survey.


  1. Hi Mark; I live in the suburbs of Toronto and the most distinctive summer sound I relate to is the song of crickets. Somewhat similar to cicadas, but a bit more melodic. Thunder storms are also fairly common as we often have high humidity.
    The song was new to me - catchy tune! ☺

    1. Yes, I think crickets would be a bit more gentle. Talking of which the sport of cricket provides plenty of sounds of summer, although I imagine it's rarely played where you live.

  2. I'd be tempted to get some good earplugs The sound I associate most with summer must be lawnmowers. I can't sit outside and relax on a nice day w/o someone, somewhere within hearing distance mowing their lawn.

    How many answers do you need to make this scientific? I'd say two is a darn good start.

    1. I'm glad you could take time off from the world of beads to visit. I know what you mean about lawnmowers, although here it tends to be brush cutters, strimmers or hortokoptikos (as they are known in Greece) which make a lot of noise. Not sure about the earplugs, cicadas do quieten down at night.


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