Every so often, realities get confused – like the moment you look in your wardrobe for that dress you only own in SL, or you catch yourself in real life looking at furniture and wondering how many prims it is. Then there are the occasions when we find ourselves surprised to find that people we know inworld look nothing like their avatars in reality.
There are subtle things too that catch us out from time to time; things that we’re almost oblivious to until they infiltrate our consciousness and remind us that there’s sometimes a thin line separating the division of one’s time between alternate realities and madness. Indeed, some would say its madness to even attempt the former!
Only yesterday, I found myself having one of those strange mixed reality moments. It was a bright, sunny day, and pleasantly warm; one of those days when I like to open up the patio doors, collapse onto the sofa and enjoy the sounds of nature, along with the occasional car alarm blaring out its annoying chant from the Tesco car park, a quarter of a mile away. Its funny how the brain has the capacity to tune out those things we don’t want to hear, yet still preserve that which we do want – like focusing on a conversation in a noisy bar, or living next door to a motorway or airport and being oblivious to the accompanying noise. There’s also the brain’s ability to zero in on the unexpected or unusual in the midst of white noise – no doubt a hangover from our distant past, when an unexpected twig cracking might herald the approach of a hungry, stalking sabretooth tiger!
What I heard was not a sabretooth tiger, but it was equally unexpected and surprised me out of my pleasant reverie. It was birdsong. Now, there’s nothing unusual in that, I have at least twenty species of birds that frequent my garden, and on a sunny day, it’s lovely to hear them going about their business, although I do sometimes wonder if all the tweets, twittering and melodious notes filling the air are actually avian slanging matches, raging arguments and brutal insults and slurs directed at fellow bird life! I digress… On this occasion, it was one particular call that suddenly invaded my consciousness and stood out amongst all the background noise with a clarity and unexpectedness that couldn’t be ignored.
There is a sound that I associate with SL which, for me, is woven into the very fibre of the virtual world. It’s a sound I’ve heard all over the Grid ever since I was a noob – a reassuring, welcoming sound that is quintessentially SL. Sadly, I’m no musician, so I can’t replicate it for you here, and I really don’t think that describing it as ‘do do doo do doop’ is really going to assist you, but believe me, you know it. You’ve heard the sound all over the place, anywhere where virtual birdsong can be found, for that’s what it is – a single, repeated avian refrain which – until yesterday – I thought was completely made up, a faux song, designed to sound like a bird, but was really something somebody had come up with on a rainy afternoon whilst messing around in Audacity.
It was this sound that I heard coming from my back garden, unexpected, and totally out of the usual context I was used to hearing it in.
It was one of those moments that the brain switches off all higher functions to avoid damage and goes into self-test mode. A cerebral ‘pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming’ moment. All the evidence from my senses was saying this was real life, but that sound was contradicting them and – under the circumstances – it was just a matter of time before the men in white coats would be coming through the door, armed with syringes of benzodiazepine and those back to front bondage jackets. Some would say that’s long overdue anyway, but so far I’ve managed to evade them!
Once my mind had revived itself with an imaginary shot of whisky, the neurons began rebooting themselves, and good old Logic muscled himself to the forefront of my mind and rationalised everything out for me:
- I was quite definitely currently fully present in RL, and only RL
- I had quite definitely heard a sample of birdsong that I only knew from SL
- Ergo, someone had used a recording of a real bird singing to create virtual birdsong
Having proven his worth, Logic ambled back to own his cosy corner of my brain to see if he could find an unopened packet of biscuits to have with a nice hot cup of tea.
There’s only one slight problem with this seemingly sensible conclusion: I have never heard that particular piece of birdsong ever before, or since, anywhere but in the virtual world. So, taking a leaf from Logic’s book, while he’s away enjoying his cuppa, the only sensible conclusion to which I can come is this…
Some pesky virtual bird has escaped from SL and is now living in my back garden!
Unless you have a better explanation?
There’s a mocking bird
Singing songs in the trees
There’s a mocking bird
Just for you and me
Barclay James Harvest – Mockingbird