The Natural Symphony

Not Beethoven, not Wagner, nor even Tchaikovsky could compose the symphony that emanates from the rainforest. Each organism hums, calls, or bellows a different tune, but harmony is created. Mother Nature begins conducting and the brass call of toucans start the piece. This is then followed by a battle of percussion between a troop of Howler monkeys and far-off thunder – the thunder always wins. As the day goes on, small and large fruits thump the ground and tiny hummingbird wings create an excited buzz. Sundown indicates the finale and the listener is pierced by the jarring shriek of bats and then treated to the staccato calls of red eyed tree frogs that keep beat. Amazingly, this symphony is repeated the next day and with time, the listener finds that new performers are added. The natural symphony never ceases its expansion here.

The only problem with this symphony is a soloist. This soloist creates incredible music that is new, loud, and extraordinarily complex, but it prevents other musicians from being heard. The soloist has almost forgotten that they are bound to the accompanying natural symphony and that they could be quieted by Mother Nature, the rainforest’s maestro. You and I as humans are components of the soloist and our species is overpowering the music of the rainforest in a crescendo of sound, technology, and resource use. That is apparent here in Panama, where there are large tree plantations or swathes of property used solely for cattle grazing – all on top of land that once hosted hyper-diverse forests. By no means can we get rid of plantations or farms, but one can only wonder which symphonic players have been quieted.

A concert’s recording does not do it justice and on a much grander scale, the rainforest’s music cannot be experienced through a recording. It must be felt in person. The rainforest is unlike anything heard in a lifetime, but I fear humans are drowning out too many known and unknown players. However, any symphony can rapidly change structure, so it is more than possible for humans to find their place in the performance. If so many other players can coexist and create harmony in the natural symphony, so can we.

Howler Overture in D Major

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