Locally Toned in Mexico: Frog Mating Calls, Macario Gómez, Quintana Roo

The small village of Macario Gómez (population 510) is 12km west of Tulum (the Mayan archeological site built on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean). Forested rather than costal, Macario Gómez is known for its craftspeople who make and sell high quality hammocks, wood carvings and organic honey products along the road that leads to the colonial town of Valladolid. Slightly off that main road, my partner and I stayed at La Selva Mariposa, a 4-room B&B featuring comfy beds, gardens, hammocks, happy dogs, and lovely water features (a waterfall, plunge pools and fountains).

As my partner and I bedded down for our first night, we heard some very loud (but charming) chirps and creeeeeeks coming from a fountain near our guest room. Our early May visit coincided with frog-mating season. Equipped with a flashlight, camera and recording equipment, we went outside that evening and successfully captured this Frog Mating Call Ringtone. This track features the sound of the running fountain and the calls of a frog. We heard the frogs make three different sounds during our stay in Macario Gómez, but we were only able to record two. Here’s the second sound–Frog Honks in a Fountain (a great honking sound, but I chose not to release this track on the Locally Toned distribution site, so download it here if you’d like to use it as a ringtone).

Because the frogs were still hanging around the next day, I was able to photograph them in the morning light. Scroll down to read a bit more about the amorous amphibians and to see more images from the grounds of La Selva Mariposa.

I sent my pictures of the amphibians to Dr. Richard P. Elinson (a biologist who contributed these Coqui tones to the project) to check whether these were frogs. Dr. Elinson replied: “People would call these frogs.  They have slimy, non-warty skin.  They are some kind of tree frog, since they have adhesive discs on the ends of their toes.” After digging around online, I wondered if the fountain frogs we recorded were Leptodactylus fragilis; the Mexican White-lipped Frog, permanent residents of the Mayan Rivera and beyond.

The fountain where we recorded the Frog Mating Call Ringtone. All of the water features on the property were designed and built by Lou, one of the owners of La Selva Mariposa.

The front gate leading onto the property.

The plunge pool nearest our guest room.

The pools were as sparkling and as refreshing as they appeared.

A steam-pyramid on the property.

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.


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Locally Toned in Mexico: Trio Jarocho, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo

Meet Trio Jarocho–Felipe Sosa on arpa, Alfonso Chavez on guitarra, and Genaro Vergara Rios on jarana.  Based in Cancun, they specialize in playing both popular and traditional music from the Veracruz region of Mexico. A group of friends, they’ve played fiestas, weddings and parties together for 25 years.

I heard them play as they strolled through the restaurant Pelicanos in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico, and, with the help of a very kind masero (waiter), put my best Spanish forward to ask them if they’d share their  lively music with Locally Toned.

Here is their Zapateado Ringtone–21 seconds long–a dance of Mexican Indian origin. As they warmed up, I also recorded Felipe Sosa’s Harpa (Harp) Message Alert.

The Trio also allowed me to record these two traditional songs, which I’ve uploaded as full-length tracks–El Torito (1 min 7 seconds), and Pajaro Cu (1 min 23 seconds). The tracks were so cheerful, and they played with such sustained energy, that I didn’t have the heart to cut (edit) them into a shorter ringtone format.

Heartfelt thanks to Felipe, Alfonso and Genaro of Trio Jarocho for sharing their ebullient music with Locally Toned. More images of Trio Jarocho, Pelicanos and Puerto Morelos follow.

Pelicanos, a Seaside restaurant in Puerto Morelos

T. Foley records Trio Jarocho, photo courtesy Scott Davidoff

Alfonso Chavez on guitarra

Genaro Vergara Rios on jarana

Felipe Sosa on arpa

Pelicanos’ ceviche and guacamole

Rain clouds roll in to Puerto Morelos

Como un sueño

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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Locally Toned in Mexico: Mango Rico Truck Ringtone, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo

Another prevalent sound in Puerto Morelos (and many other parts of Mexico) is that of independent vendors using car-rigged PA Systems, bells, clanks, shouts, calls and whistles to announce the selling of their goods out of trucks, carts and off of bicycles. A kind of “free market” home delivery system that doesn’t require a household or individual to sign up with a company in advance, customers call out to or wave down neighborhood vendors as needed. This old-time peddling method provides an incredibly helpful and convenient service to busy families, elderly and less able-bodied folk.

Here’s a Mango Rico Truck Ringtone that I recorded one morning on Avenida Javier Rojo Gomez. In it, you’ll hear the sound of the vendor’s voice talking up his delicious fruit (“Mango Rico, Pina Rica”)  over his P.A. system, some birds chirping (and the faint sound of plates clinking within the courtyard at Casa Caribe).

My friend Tey Stiteler, who lives in Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico describes her neighborhood’s home delivery audio-acoustic environment this way:

“..there are a million of them–from the whistle and claps of the bread man to the perky ‘Zeta. Zeta. Zeta Gas!’ recording of the gas man, to the screw driver clanking on the metal handlebar of the ice cream man, to the doleful whistle of the camote-with-sweetened-condensed-milk man.”

I had to run to my balcony or the street every time I heard the Mango Rico Truck driver approach (to catch a passing photo of the vehicle and/or attempt to record the audio). I am sorry I was not able to meet the man, to take a portrait of him or tell him that I appreciated his vocal stylings and was including him in the project!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.


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Locally Toned in Mexico: Birdsong of Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo

Should you find yourself, as we did, in Puerto Morelos–a fishing village 30 minutes south of Cancun–you’re certain to hear the birdsong. I noticed it most prominently in the early morning when the birds were up singing with the sunrise. A palapa crow’s nest was situated on the roof adjacent to our hotel room, and I hid, tucked away from the birds, sitting on steps to record audio for this Birdsong Ringtone (Puerto Morelos). It includes various bird calls–my favorite sounds like a kind of sonar reverb, and it ends with a call my boyfriend described as a the “Muppet News Desk Alert.” I also exported a Trilling Birdsong Message Alert and a Squawking Birdsong Message Alert.

Here are a few images from our respite at Puerto Morelos, including a picture of the bird-themed tile that decorates the bathrooms at Casa Caribe.

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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David Bernabo’s Unreliable Narrator Tones

David Bernabo is a musician, animator, writer, artist, and he holds a full time gig–to pay the bills. We met in his Bloomfield home-studio to discuss his contribution to Locally Toned–two highly original, and heavily edited audio tracks Unreliable Narrator and Another Unreliable Narrator.

“Each is made up of numerous recordings I’ve made or collected over the years, including one that my grandfather made. He was an accordion player and in 1941, as people could in those days, he drove down to Virginia or something and plopped down the money to have his own record made. But there are sounds from our weddings–my wife and I had four of them–specifically, there’s sound from a mirror installation that moved, built by the artist Joshua Space. Basically I raided my audio archive to reconfigure and change the context of these sounds. And there’s definitely a nod to a simple [interactive] computer [fiction] game called Zork–in the way the narrator takes us to places in both that game and my ringtones.

My stories are random–non linear–narration for the sake of narration, rather than having a particular origin–these stories are complete non sequiturs, but I use a calm, reassuring voice. I made these pieces as ringtones, but I might put out all these tracks as a 7 inch vinyl record.”

Bernabo’s studio is full of instruments–a toy piano, a harpsichord, a Wurlitzer, a stack of guitars. It’s where he records music and does editing and graphic design work. He began  playing piano in the 2nd grade; in the 5th grade, he took up the guitar. He also plays a little banjo.

“Right now I’ve got a project with Will Dyar in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called Host Skull. We do pop records, but stranger.” As Bernabo explained it, the collaborators record in Pittsburgh and Santa Fe, respectively, with Dave performing Host Skull music locally (working with musicians here) and Dyar performing their content with musicians out West. Over the years, Bernabo has worked with artists Ben Opie, Boxstep, Vale and Year and Boca Chica. Lately he’s also been working with dancers and doing installations, like “Inhabit Host Skull,” a participatory art work that invited the viewer to complete the work by helping to shape its constantly shifting sound environment.

Above: two images from the “Inhabit Host Skull” installation at 707 Penn Gallery. Left, a room view, and right, a close-up. Below: Bernabo pieces together the front and back cover art for “Happener Magicker,” a David Bernabo + Assembly recording.

Thanks to David Bernabo for composing and sharing his thoughtfully produced and *unreliable* stories with Locally Toned!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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Homestead Train Whistle Ringtone

Here’s a long-awaited and oft requested tone–the sound of a Homestead Train Whistle.

Recorded at the Homestead Pennsylvania Railroad Station, built circa 1890 (or 1906–depending upon which source is referred to), on Amity Street, the building now houses the offices for the Allegheny County District Attorney. It sits between two sets of railroad tracks, and there are benches, for the office workers and/or occasional train spotters. Though I waited no longer than half an hour before the railroad crossing bells would ring out, I had no way to determine from which direction the next train would come. It took me two hours to get a good recording. I had a lot of solitary fun figuring out the final approach that allowed me to capture audio track above. In the end, I think I make a pretty good Foley artist.

This ringtone is dedicated to Susan Englert, a Pittsburgh-based architect and visual artist, and Dr. Gerry Santoro, an Assistant Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. They both requested the sound of a train whistle as a ringtone during earlier phases of the project. I quote their illustrative requests below, because at the heart of this project is a sense of curiosity about the sounds that are meaningful to people of this region. What does Pittsburgh (or another region) sound like? Which of these sounds should be turned into ringtones and shared with the public free of charge?

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and industrial heritage of Homestead, PA, visit the Rivers of Steel Web site or check out Ron Baraff’s Archival Tone Series.

Excerpted email from Susan Englert, July 2009

TRAINS! trains trains trains trains TRAINS ==> Piiiiiiiittsburgh!!

I ride my bike home through the Strip every day and usually catch the early evening run.

What makes an otherwise generic tone Pittsburgh-specific is the reverb off the surrounding hillside. Right there, on Smallman St. at around 28th, it’s especially loud, clear, and echo-y. Gives me goose bumps every time. For me, trains are THE sound defining Pittsburgh. (OK, that and spitting…) In every neighborhood, you hear ’em.

I’m sure someone’s suggested this, but just in case… Gotta have a train in the collection.

Excerpt from an email from Gerry Santoro, October 2010

I would love to have a train whistle as my ring tone. (I have Purple Haze right now – but the whistle would bring back so many memories.)

I grew up along Freeport Road on the Eastern end of Blawnox. My house (a brick duplex) was about 1000 feet from the Allegheny river, and we could see it from our front porch. Blawnox is on a bend in the river, and I would hear the train whistles from both sides as they approached road crossings. The echo of the whistle would carry down the river. On real quiet nights you could also hear a ‘clickety-clack’ as the trains ran over the old tracks. As a teen I would sometimes hang out along the river, within 20 feet of the trains. The doppler effect as the trains would pass by was VERY noticeable.

I really miss that sound. Now I live in the mountains with a state forest (Rothrock) in my back yard. The sound of the owls, cows, crickets and occasional coyotes are wonderful, but I miss the trains…

As you can see, the first request came in almost three years ago–better late than never?!

Dear Susan and Gerry, sincere thanks for your beautiful and nostalgic ringtone request!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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Nermal the Kitty’s Meow Tone

Meet artist Casey Droege and her 13-year old blind kitty cat, Nermal, who live in Pittsburgh’s North Side Deutschtown neighborhood. Asked why she wanted to contribute the sound of Nermal’s meow to the project, Casey said, “It’s one of the most consistent sounds I hear all day long when I’m working in my studio. I like to work in a quiet environment, and Nermal will start doing these loud, long meows. I think it’s a form of echo-location–she uses to figure out if anyone’s near her.” Here’s Nermal’s Meow Tone. In it, you’ll also hear the kitty cat’s prominent purrs. I also exported one short and sweet meow as Nermal’s Meow – Message Alert.

We recorded Nermal in Casey’s impressively well-organized studio, where she’s working on several projects about language and relationships. Lately her work has taken the form of books, prints and recordings. An ongoing project, Tracks of My Tears, is an vinyl record featuring “40 minutes of stories about 8 songs that have induced crying.”

Thank you, Casey and Nermal for your contribution to Locally Toned!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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