Synthesizing Mother Nature’s Sounds Like You’ve Never Seen Before

Synthesizing nightime soundscape

We’ve all heard the range of sounds to be made electronically from mostly discrete components, but what [Kelly Heaton] has achieved with her many experiments is a whole other world, the world of nature to be exact. Her seemingly chaotic circuits create a nighttime symphony of frogs, crickets, and katydids, and a pleasant stroll through her logs makes how she does it crystal clear and is surely as delightful as taking a nocturnal stroll through her Virginia countryside.

Homemade piezo buzzer with amplifierThe visual and aural sensations of the video below will surely tempt you further, but in case it doesn’t, here’s a taste. When Radio Shack went out of business, she lost her source of very specific piezo buzzers and so had to reverse engineers theirs to build her own, right down to making her own amplifiers on circular circuit boards and vacuum forming and laser cutting the housings. For the sounds, she starts out with a simple astable multivibrator circuit, demonstrating how to create asymmetry by changing capacitors, and then combining two of the circuits to get something which sounds just like a cricket. She then shows how to add katydids which enhance the nighttime symphony with percussive sounds much like a snare drum or hi-hat. It’s all tied together with her Mother Nature Board built up from a white noise generator, Schmitt trigger, and shift registers to turn on and off the different sound circuits, providing a more unpredictable and realistic nighttime soundscape. The video below shows the combined result, though she admits she’ll never really be finished. And be sure to check out even more photos and videos of her amazing work in the gallery on her page.

For the more familiar range of sounds, though no less varied, check out our own [Elliot William’s] series, Logic Noise, where he takes us through an extensive exploration of a less Mother Naturely soundscape.

[vimeo 293469154 w=640 h=360]

13 thoughts on “Synthesizing Mother Nature’s Sounds Like You’ve Never Seen Before

  1. It’s interesting when you try for a specific sound circuit and it behaves randomly, producing a new kind of cool sound. This is a good example of those cool sounds. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Interesting and very cool. That approach of creating separate discrete voice circuits, right down to a specialized speaker… labour intensive but the result can be much more seductive then just synthesing a sound in software and positioning it in a stereo soundfield. This could make some incredibly immersive spaces.

    1. A painting isn’t a photograph. I would guess that the goal was to understand more about how each different sound is generated, then create individual circuits that approach that. This approach is infinitely tweakable; what would you change to make it better?

      Also, I’m sure the effect is much more impressive in person that what can be conveyed by a compressed video played over some cheap beige speakers.

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