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Published: 10 August 2019

By Andy Ross

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All about sound

The late summer is surprisingly quiet in the isles.

During the summer the air is full of the songs of birds. Larks, sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, gulls... all contribute to the summer songscape of Shetland. Suddenly though, at around this time of year, the place goes quiet. All the avian life is busy hunting for seeds and insects in the final attempt to fatten up for the lean months to come, and for migrations. It is always a little bit of a shock to walk into work with only the wind for company, but the compensation is the darkening light which throws all the colours into a sort of wild relief. Beautiful.

A friend of the blog (thank you, Fiona) sent a link in to a different sort of sound. An article on theconversation.com is revealing very interesting research into sound in the Stone Age, and includes an example which is found the world over. In Shetland it is called, I think, a snorrie bane and was made using animal bones. (Perhaps someone in the isles can confirm or correct that for me?) Made from perforated wood or bones, the instrument is whirled through the air to produce a buzzing noise, rather like the humming of a large swarm of bees. Have a read of the article. It is fascinating.