Sitting here in my living room, editing a book about French composer André Jolivet, I am serenaded by the concrete jack hammers … and a lion’s roar.

I do believe that I am the only person in the world who can truthfully write those words at this moment in time.

Our house is directly across the river from the Calgary Zoo. It wasn’t until we visited the zoo that I discovered that we are directly across from the lion enclosure. In fact, we can see our house when we stand at the enclosure.

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Lion enclosure at the Calgary Zoo

That explains why when they roar they sound like they are standing on our front lawn. I am amazed at the resonance of those roars. At first, we thought the sound was “dinosaur roars” being amplified from the “Pre-Historic Park” enclosure at the zoo, but then we realized that it was late at night or early in the morning, when no one would be at the zoo to hear.



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Dinosaur in Calgary Zoo, as seen from Bow River bike path

Here’s a video of what it sounds like…turn up your volume!

Imagine waking to that in the middle of the night! Sometimes, I wake with a start, the hair on my arms and neck standing erect. Then I realize that I’d heard the lion roar while I slept, and my body had had a visceral reaction. No matter how many times I hear it, I still get a frisson run through me.

Apparently, the secret to the lion’s roar is in its vocal folds (cords), which are in the shape of a square, rather than a triangle for most other animals, including humans. This allows more noise to be created with less air passed over the folds with less lung pressure. A lion or tiger can roar as loud as 114 decibels, about 25 times louder than a gas-powered lawn mower.

I suspect that the size of the lion’s skull enhances the echo quality of the roar. Vocal folds and a cavernous skull. Imagine these creatures singing in a quartet!

When the time comes to move, I shall miss this special, and most unexpected, feature of our life in Calgary. Never again will I be able to write those words: I edit to the sound of the lion’s roar.