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Enjoy the Concert Insects Perform in Your Own Yard

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Lisa Rainsong's ear is tuned to w hat she calls "the insect percussion ensemble," w hich …

Lisa Rainsong's ear is tuned to w hat she calls "the insect percussion ensemble," w hich
performs in a vast outdoor concert hall reaching from the ground to the treetops. No tickets or ushers are needed. The human audience sits on porches,
decks or blankets, listening to melodic trills, chirps and scrapes coming from a perennial bed or the top of a backyard oak.

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  • 1. Enjoy the concert insects perform in your own yard: Full HousePublished: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 7:55 AM Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 7:58 AM Julie Washington, The Plain DealerByMeeting Lisa Rainsong, w ho loves insects because they make music, made me miss theinsects of my youth.The sparse numbers of fireflies on my law n today are nothing compared w ith the clouds ofdancing lights that w ould appear in the open lot betw een my house and that of mychildhood friends, the Jeffersons. The night that w e spotted the first firefly w as anunofficial summer holiday; w e w ould be allow ed to stay out after dark, filling jars w ithlightning bugs and squishing their glow ing abdomens onto braids of grass to make"bracelets."We w ere probably responsible for decimating most of the firefly population in Canton.Afternoons w ere spent catching grasshoppers and praying mantises, collecting the fragileshells that cicadas shed and tying thread on the back legs of June bugs so w e could "fly"them. The song of the cicada sadly signaled that that first day of school w as coming fast.After such a buggy childhood, I w as surprised to hear that Rainsong often has to coax the View full sizeadults in her classes on "insectsong" to go out and catch a bug. But eventually their Lisa Rainsongresistance melts and they remember how much fun it is to feel a cricket w riggling in their Lisa Rainsong, a local naturalist who teaches classes aboutpalms. insectsong, found this short-winged m eadow k atydid in the Pond Brook Conservation Area in Sum m it County. "Little k ids are charm ed by them because they jum p," she said.Rainsongs ear is tuned to w hat she calls "the insect percussion ensemble," w hichperforms in a vast outdoor concert hall reaching from the ground to the treetops. No tickets or ushers are needed. The human audience sits on porches,decks or blankets, listening to melodic trills, chirps and scrapes coming from a perennial bed or the top of a backyard oak."If you dont pave over the concert hall and poison the musicians, you can have w onderful concerts," she tells her students.Rainsong, 57, recently taught a class at Holden Arboretum on the insect percussion ensemble. Since I couldnt attend, she graciously agreed to meet fora one-on-one tutorial.We started, appropriately enough, on the ground level w ith ground and field crickets. Males chirp by rubbing their w ings together; one w ing has ridgeslike a file, and one has a scraper. Rainsong grabbed her eating utensils to demonstrate, running the spoon handle over the serrated knife edge to make aburring sound.You can get aw ay w ith that in a cool place like the Inn on Coventry, w here w e met for the interview .Male crickets sing even though the sound may allow predators to find them. Females dont sing, but they also take risks by moving to find the males, sheexplained.The middle part of the orchestra is filled w ith insects that sing from the tops of blades of grass or other plants. Katydids sit on top of the grass, making ahigh-pitched sound that is hard for humans to hear. "Their little stages are their plants," Rainsong said.Tree crickets and bush katydids can also be found in this middle area, clinging to goldenrod, she said. Treetops belong to other katydid and cricketspecies.Rainsong, w ho lives in Cleveland Heights, is fascinated by music in all its forms. She teaches music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music and performsw ith the early-music ensembles Quire Cleveland and Apollos Fire.Her exploration of bird song eventually led her to start studying insectsong several years ago. W hy insects?"Because its music. I w ant to know everything I hear," Rainsong said.She is in the second year of a tw o-year study at the Geauga Park District, w here she studies how controlled burns in a meadow affect insects. She craw lsthrough fields at night w ith a field recorder and shotgun microphone, searching for the one tiny insect thats singing, so that she can identify it. Rainsong converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
  • 2. uses her recordings and photographs in her classes.If you w ant to learn more about the insect ensemble making music in your backyard, check out the Songs of Insects w ebsite atmusicofnature.org/songsofinsects.You w ould make Rainsong a happy w oman. She w ants us to know w hat is in the natural w orld, so that w e notice w hen something is missing."I w ant people to get out and listen," she said.© 2011 cleveland.com. All rights reserved. converted by Web2PDFConvert.com

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