Windsor Hum to star in musical PhD thesis

A graduate student from Calgary hopes to record quality audio of the Windsor Hum - an unsolved phenomenon plaguing people in the Ontario city and surrounding communities - and incorporate it into a song.

Calgary grad student inspired by rumbling sound bothering people for more than 4 years

Calgary student Brian Garbet is attempting to record the Windsor Hum as part of his PhD thesis. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

The mysterious Windsor Hum could soon be a music sensation.

A graduate student from Calgary hopes to record quality audio of the unsolved phenomenon that's plagued people in Windsor, Ont., and surrounding communities, and incorporate it into a song.

While the noise has kept people awake at night and irritated others during the day, the sound is music to Brian Garbet's ears, and will become part of his PhD thesis.

His thesis is a musical composition — a creative project that uses a clarinet, electronics and a soundscape of field recordings. Garbet calls his musical style "unusual."

The Windsor Hum is more of a low-frequency rumble rather than a hum. The sound has been described as an idling transport truck or train engine.

According to a federally funded report released in 2014, the source of the mysterious Windsor Hum in the southwestern Ontario city is somewhere on Zug Island in River Rouge, Mich., across the Detroit River, southwest of Windsor. Zug Island is home to a large industrial complex.

Garbet learned of the Windsor Hum through news reports. A friend of his, from Windsor, had never heard of the Hum.

So far, Garbet has only recorded what he suspects to be the hum from under water because water is a good conductor of sound.

'Symphony of sound' captured

Garbet was close to shore when he made the recording about a year ago. He's back in Windsor trying to get closer to the source.

Garbet hasn't drawn any conclusion as to what the hum is or its origin. 

He wants experts to analyze what he recorded last year.

Residents in west and south Windsor and the neighbouring town of LaSalle started complaining about the rumbling and humming noise more than four years ago.

"It's quite elusive," Garbet said of the Windsor Hum.

Garbet called what he heard "shocking," but only "suspects" his recording to be the Windsor Hum.

Garbet will also gather sounds from nature to couple with his industrial sound, and will gather interviews from people who have heard or have thoughts on the Windsor Hum and other noise pollution.

"We live in this symphony of sound every day whether we're aware of it or not," Garbet said.

Garbet said he hopes to finish his project in about a year and premier the composition in Windsor.

The map below shows how close Zug Island is to Windsor and LaSalle, Ont.