This is a common starling. They are abundant in D.C. Doesn’t he kind of look like a fancy Ukrainian Easter egg?
This is a common starling singing in the tree next to my balcony. I always thought it was a bunch of them making so much noise outside, but one sounds like a whole chorus. They’re capable of many tones, whistles and clicks and are known to mimic other birds and man-made sounds. Doesn’t this one kind of sound like it’s mimicking Beavis?
(Maybe this doesn’t demonstrate it well, but that’s what immediately popped in my head when I listened back to the recording.)
Today I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a mass of thousands of people in the heat and the rain, sharing stories and umbrellas. For three hours we waited and intermittently shuffled, finally allowed into the Lincoln Memorial area of the National Mall for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
I got to see Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and President Obama (on a screen and maybe as a speck in the distance, anyway). But the most moving speaker I saw was Reverend Bernice King, who was only 5 months old when her father delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the same spot in 1963.
Her speech ended right a 3 o’clock for the “Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action Bell Ringing,” marking the exact time Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. Groups all over the country signed up to ring their bells in unison, and on the steps of the memorial a young girl sounded a rather clanky bell salvaged from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963.
I figure all the videos are online, so here’s just a couple of clips stitched together:
More photos from the anniversary event: Continue reading
On our way up a hill to Fort Totten, Ian and I sat down to check the map and our text messages. With his bike laying on the ground, Ian idly dangled his wooden phone charm in the spinning spokes of his front wheel. It made a pretty sound!
A challenge to musicmakers:
This file is downloadable. Make something even prettier out of it!
This week I’ve been working at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival doing a variety of odd jobs. My supervisors caught wind of this blog and gave me a great assignment: interview the Baltimore-based fruit vendors, colloquially known as “Arabbers,” and record the songs they sing to attract customers.
The short article and audio featuring Tyrone Diggs-Bay were published on the festival blog today. Please check it out!
I also talked to Tyrone’s father, Melvin Diggs (above). He stands off to the side of the booth and completes all transactions. (“He likes to be in control of the cash,” Tyrone said.) He was a little shy about talking to me with my recorder, but I persuaded him to sing a song too:
I had the best evacuation experience yesterday: When rain and thunder storms progressed to lightening bolts, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival staff made us leave the metal-framed outdoor tents and take shelter in the surrounding Smithsonian museums. I picked the National Museum of Natural History.
Its taxidermy dioramas and videos are pretty breathtaking, and the size is overwhelming. The Hope Diamond is eh. But since proto-Homosapien skulls and deep-sea creatures give me the creeps, I mostly hung around the live Insect Zoo (okay, the African millipede did make my skin crawl).
The first display case housed the tarantula. Every kid freaked out. I wish I could have just set up my recorder at the tarantula and get every kids’ reaction. Instead I walked around the whole exhibit, catching snippets of conversations and exclamations, parents pretending to be, by necessity, entomologists.
- There’s simultaneous conversations at 0:30. Listen to the kids.
- Does anyone know the language at 0:59?
Photos from the rest of the museum: Continue reading