“In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” says audio curator Greg Budney, describing a major milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All archived analog recordings in the collection, going back to 1929, have now been digitized and can be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org
“This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab,” said Budney. “And through its digitization we’ve swung the doors open on it in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.”
It took archivists a dozen years to complete the monumental task. The collection contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. There’s an emphasis on birds, but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more.
“Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world,” explained Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. “Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.”
The recordings are used by researchers studying many questions, as well as by birders trying to fine-tune their sound ID skills. The recordings are also used in museum exhibits, movies and commercial products such as smartphone apps.
“Now that we’ve digitized the previously archived analog recordings, the archival team is focusing on new material from amateur and professional recordists from around the world to really, truly build the collection,” Budney said. “Plus, it’s just plain fun to listen to these sounds. Have you heard the sound of a walrus underwater? It’s an amazing sound.“
Sample some fascinating Macaulay Library sounds:
Earliest recording: Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen was a pioneer in sound recording. On a spring day in 1929 he recorded this Song Sparrow sounding much as they do today
Youngest bird: This clip from 1966 records the sounds of an Ostrich chick while it is still inside the egg – and the researchers as they watch
Liveliest wake-up call: A dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia is bursting at the seams with warbles, squeals, whistles, booms and hoots
Best candidate to appear on a John Coltrane record: The indri, a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clarinet
Most spines tingled: The incomparable voice of a Common Loon on an Adirondacks lake in 1992
Most erratic construction project: the staccato hammering sounds of a walrus under water
Most likely to be mistaken for aliens arriving: Birds-of-paradise make some amazing sounds – here’s the UFO-sound of a Curl-crested Manucode in New Guinea
There are styles and weapons that are easy to learn and those that are not. I posted earlier about how to choose a MA that’s right for your character and, in a way, this is an extension of that.
What are some styles that can be learned easily? It might be hard to find them if we don’t know where to start looking. The answer is the kind that were developed for that express purpose. You want the martial styles that are still in use, the ones used (or were used) by military forces to train a large number of beginners for the battlefield. Alternately, take a look at basic self-defense training courses, these are techniques that are designed to be picked up quickly over the course of one or two sessions and without it being necessary for a master to look over your character’s shoulder.
Some occasionally overlooked weapons that are fairly easy to learn:
The Staff – ignoring the spinning, whirling beauty of the Wushu staff, the staff and the quarterstaff are very utilitarian, basic weapons. The strikes are basic and easy to pick up through rote practice, it’s a weapon that can be learned over the course of months instead of years and is fairly dangerous right out of the gate. Stick a metal tip on the end and you’ve got a spear, but that just makes it more deadly.
The Hatchet– The hand axe or the hatchet was one of the primary weapons of the Vikings, it’s more utilitarian and less romantic than a sword, but it’s another one of those weapons that doesn’t require much training to become proficient. It’s not that heavy and it is far easier to explain away to a city guard or a police officer than a sword or a firearm. Since the hatchet is essentially a bladed club, other club-like weapons also fall into this category: the crowbar, the wrench, and the heavy flashlight.
The Crossbow– Much like the Hatchet, the crossbow is less romantic than a longbow, but there’s a reason this weapon overtook it’s predecessor (and why firearms eventually overtook it). It’s a very easy weapon to train someone on, they will learn it quickly and with a surprising amount of accuracy. It and the bow have the distinction of true stealth, unlike the gun they can kill silently.
The Shotgun – this is a weapon that’s less romantic than the handgun or the rifle, but it’s much easier to learn. While most firearms are designed around ease of use, the shotgun’s scatterfire makes it easier operate in an actual situation. The downside, of course, is that you cannot hit a single target with absolute certainty, but buckshot will nail something. For a writer, the shotgun also provides a nice level of unpredictability, because even if the character is sure they’re going to hit what they’re aiming at, there’s a high likelihood of collateral damage in the process. For the audience, it’s a nail biting, desperate weapon and that’s a good thing.
The Slingshot – It’s easy to get a hold of, you can still buy them today, they sell them to children, and ammo for them can be picked right up off the ground. In some parts of America, the slingshot is still used for hunting small game. It’s also worth pointing out that in poor (and not so poor countries) the older version of the slingshot, the sling is still the weapon of choice for young children around the world. With practice, it’s level of accuracy is deadly. Use David and Goliath as a primer and you might come up with something interesting.