Nature’s Unusual sounds and mysterious noises
Some of the most unusual sounds come directly from our planet’s own forests and oceans. In the video below, you can hear the night sounds of wildlife in Australia.
A relaxing backdrop of chirping insects and birds is animated by more a more disturbing collection of weird noises, including grunting, growling, howling and screeching.
Earth and space sounds are a rich sonic ecosystem worth exploring! The nonprofit website Earth.fm is a fantastic place for free, endless ambient soundscapes recorded in the great outdoors, across the planet.
Sometimes a mysterious noise sounds ordinary, but becomes weird because of its context. In 2022, citizens of New York reported a mysterious humming sound in the city that was driving them crazy, partly due to the fact that they couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.
Not every strange sound is a nuisance, though. The famous bloop sound from 1997 headlines was little more than a small bubble popping sound. Yet scientists debated its origin for decades and arrived at an interpretation involving shifting ice structures.
Scientists peer not only into the mysteries of the ocean, but into the sounds of outer space as well. But there’s no air in outer space, and so there is no sound, you say?
NASA worked around the sound-free problem of space by sonifying data coming directly from celestial bodies. These unusual sound tapestries are a noisy, glitch-like ambience coming from places like Jupiter’s moons or the rumbling of two black holes merging.
Star Trek: Weird Sci-Fi Sound Effects
The sonic landscape of scifi space operas like Star Trek probably seem commonplace today.
Half a century back, many of the weird sounds we take for granted were considered part of the film industry’s groundbreaking special effects!
Listen closely to the time-stamped flyby scene above, consisting of the UFO’s high tech whirring, buzzing and crackling as the power boosters thrust it across the screen. A doppler effect was applied to match the visual panning as the plane goes by.
Twenty-five years prior, the 1984 scifi film Flight of the Navigator featured a more abstract and surreal take on flying space ships. To match the quick-silver appearance of the craft, each flight scene is accompanied by a weird noise in the higher upper-registers.
Human Tetris, Junji Ito: Weird sounds from Japan
The Japanese have a legacy of weird advertising and cartoons that remains largely unmatched to this day. A clip below, from the Human Tetris game show, has contestants stand on a plank and try to avoid getting knocked off. Viewers are bombarded with sound effects.
In the first 10 seconds of the sequence, we here success chimes, sirens, one-shot stabs, short sine wave bells, and more. These sfx are layered on top of noisy audience reactions, vocal commentary from the hosts, and live recordings of the contestant splashing into the water.
Maximalism is a staple of Japan, but they understand minimalism just as well. Horror movies from the region skillfully combine awkward silences with saturated reverb and what I call the “anime wimper” to create a dissociative, liminal space that seems to exist outside of time.
During the opening moments of the clip above from Junji Ito, we hear the weird, trademark wimpering sound with the squishing of human flesh. That sloshing effect becomes even more disturbing as the scene’s headless figure stands up in a pool of blood.
Japan is expert at crafting these intense, weird sound effects. Like New York City and Chicago, there’s a vibrant Japanoise hardcore scene where noise music is elevated to a high art form.
Dark Soul 3, Bloodborne – Video Games
Video games makes use of weird noises for all sorts of purposes. Fear is a common techniques for making games more immersive, so often times a weird sound will be a threat to your character, like the creaking of a house at night or a rustling in the bushes.
The scene above showcases a giant spider from Dark Souls III. Its weird, chattering teeth and heavy breathing punctuate a layer of ambient wind in the background. Compare this to the clip below from BloodBorne:
In both clips, the uncomfortable sound of groaning and cracking from the monsters is layered against subtle ambient earth sounds like wind and insects chirping.
Goofy Ahh: Weird Sounds in Funny memes
There’s more to peculiar audio than Japanese horror movies, video games, and scifi films!
Actually, some of the weirdest sounds exist in scrappy fragments, scattered across the nether regions of Social media. The infamous goofy ahh sounds from American TikTok make no sense to an outsider, and yet they racked up over ten million views on this one YouTube account alone (full video).
The Goofy Ahh meme is a mispronunciation of goofy ass. It just **refers to silly sounds that were popular in a small internet subculture on social media.
There are hundreds of YouTube playlists with random videos just like this, pairing unusual sounds with equally bizarre, super-short clips. You can find a full video here showcasing some of the most popular, weird sounds in the meme-o-sphere.
The Nutty Professor, Austin Powers: Goofy fart sound effects
While we’re wrapping things up on the theme of goofy sounds, we’ve got to make a momentary albeit unpleasant pitstop with this classic moment from the 1996 Nutty Professor:
Fart sound effects are a high art. At least, they’re treated that way in some films.
This scene from GoldMember features a single-pitched fart that slides elegantly up into the note associated with the home key of the background music. It’s this thoughtful glissando that makes the scene so funny. How elegant!
So how about that. We’ve made it all the way to the gutter here. But there’s so much more to weird noises than the gurgling of our stomachs.
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