The Music Bug

You may or may not be a fan of the bugs in your backyard and perhaps even join the many whom often have a completely irrational fear of all things crawly. However, their is no denying their magnificent make up, as their minuscular proportions present a feat of extraordinary engineering and aesthetic complexity.

As technology has advanced Entomologists have been having a field day studying and understanding the diverse insect populations and their respective relationship with the environment and of course us. Their existence is essential to our own for example, as many of you will be aware of the recent ecological bioscience concerns about the decline and extinctions within Bee species and how this will cause devastating effects on human existence. In short, our bugs are not only beautiful but highly beneficial. To find out more on how to help visit https://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/why-bees-need-help/


image2                                                      William Wasden, Jr


Insect Inspiration

For centuries the presence of insects has intrigued our human senses cultivating our fond appreciation for the little critters. Our fascination with their forms and behaviours has proved productive as we have learned to exploit the fruits of their labour such as honey, silk, beeswax and Cochineal. Not only that, we have developed a cultural entomology as Charles Hogue defined it, including them in our diet as a vital source of protein in some countries, they also emerge in our language through familiar expressions like ” Busy as a Bee” and “Snug as a bug”. We scientifically monitor their habits which in turn informs and impacts on our own practices, and their symbolism can be found in our politics, technology, recreation, religion, mythology, folklore, literature, poetry, music and art.

Throughout the ages they appear time and again to inspire our creativity. Early Native American wall paintings along with Egyptian Hieroglyphs observe their long standing significance to our specie, while latter day artists studied their incredible constructs and colours in an attempt to paint fabulous depictions of their intricate beauty.



A Dragon-fly, Two Moths, a Spider and Some Beetles, With Wild Strawberries. By Jan Van Kessel,17th Century



Allegory on Life and Death by Joris and Jacob Hoefnagel, 1598

Insects could be considered as n atures percussion section with their endless mathematical noises and the sonic acoustic relationship between humans and bugs is most commonly found in pest control as researchers record and identify insects by the music of their wings.

A team lead by the University of California,Riverside have honed this technique by tracking the sound of their flight with a microphone along with using a laser light image5sensor to track the movement of an insect’s wing beats. By recording its wing pattern as it  breaks the light, a signal is then converted into an audio file. An insect’s buzz has many musical qualities such as tempo, colour, texture or musicality, these along withother considerations such as circadian cycles are fed to a computer algorithm which untangles the information and specifically identifies the species, even distinguishing between genders.

Interesting fact: Did you know that Bees sing diatonic notes.

Writers such as David Rothenber delve deeply into how insects give us rhythm and noise with books such as Bug Music, whilst amazing compositions burst into life as in the orchestral explosion;



image7Flight Of The Bumblebee by Nikolia Rimsky-Korsakov.    http://youtu.be/6QV1RGMLUKE

Or the rhythmic vocal ensemble cappella, El Grillo (The Cricket) by renaissance composer Josquin des Prez.   http://youtu.be/ylaSLdwcr7c


The musical nature of insects has unquestionably inspired generations of musicians with bands such as The Beatles, Adam Ant, Scorpions, Papa Roach, WASP, Buddy Holly And The Crickets all directly adopting their names from their little Eco friends. Countless songs are inscribed with references to our bug buddies as are the myriad of melodic metaphors that lyrically lament about love, as exquisitely exemplified by The Butterfly Lovers ,written in 1959 by two Chinese composers, He Zhanhao (何占豪, born 1933) and Chen Gang (陈钢, born 1935) which gives a pentatonic portrayal of an ancient Chinese Legend of love and tragedy.

A young woman naimage8med Zhu Ying Tai disguised herself as a man to attend a school in Hangzhou. On her way there, she met a fellow traveller and schoolmate named Liang Shan Bo. They became good friends and swore honorary brothers. For three years, they studied and lived together. Yet, Liang never realized that Zhu was a woman. Before their graduation, Zhu asked Liang to visit her in her hometown and promised to marry her “fictitious” younger sister to him. When Liang arrived, hewas ecstatic to discover her true identity. However, their hope of marriage was soon dashed when Zhu’s parents betrothed Zhu to their schoolmate Ma Wen Cai. Liang died of a broken heart. On Zhu’s wedding day to Ma, she tore off her wedding gown and threw herself against Liang’s tomb, which opened up and enveloped Zhu. Then, from the tomb, a pair of butterflies emerged.


The Butterfly Lovers ErHu Concerto (traditional instruments)  https://youtu.be/tu5XohUR3Pg  or The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto https://youtu.be/DK3jRo6aTbQ …




Our interpretations of romance, fear, anxiety, comfort and joy have all been relayed using insect inspired themes. Perhaps we can all compare our creativity to that of the insect world as we each endeavour to explore our patterns and communicate our unique sound and rhythmic expression. In the beauty of bugs we can see ourselves, industrious, fragile, cooperative, cunning, relentless, adaptable and astonishing. Is it any wonder we sing about them and celebrate them for all their tiny greatness.


Author Indigo Star © 22nd August 2016