Listening from home
If there is one positive that came out of those anxious days of level four it was for many people got to enjoy less traffic noise and, with it, the renewed sounds of birdsong through their neighbourhoods. For us the beautiful notes weren’t just in the backyard – they were on the stereo too…
We were inspired by our lock down ‘silver lining’ to recently undertake the auditory equivalent of bird watching online – listening for songs that included birdsong.
Of course, there have been many instances over the past where composers have sought to emulate the esteemed calls of their favourite birds. The goldfinch inspired Vivaldi, a cuckoo can be heard within Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and Sergei Prokofiev used an oboe in place of a real duck in Peter and the Wolf.
It is believed that Ottorino Respighi may have been the first to use pre-recorded birdsong, the Italian composer using the nightingale in his score for The Pines of Rome.
Soon after the very first ever BBC broadcast to take place outside was in 1924 when Beatrice Harrison played her cello accompanied by the singing nightingales of her Surrey garden. In the 1960s the Beatles famously collaborated with a feathered friend on Blackbird (the best part of the song, as far as we’re concerned).
In more recent times a single made entirely of bird song has become almost as popular as that from the Fab Four. In 2019, Let Nature Sing was released by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The track consisted entirely of 25 different calls, all from birds endangered in the UK. The charity single was the best selling of the week, with 23,500 units sold.
In 2020, with New Zealand’s lock down in full swing, we decided to do some online research into what other songs had bird calls in them. There were a lot!
No song approaches it’s avian muse in quite the same way. Happy Cycling by the Boards Of Canada has the call of the red-legged seriema at times, a distinct trill that cuts through the song, whereas the faint bird calls within the Aphex Twin track almost feel like an auditory hallucination.
If you’d like to listen you can find our Spotify playlist by clicking the link below.
The Park, Feist
Water May Walk, Devendra Banhart
Maybe I’m Dreamin’, PINEO & LOEB
Aisatsana , Aphex Twin
Little Dreamer, Future Islands
Ex-Factor, Lauren Hill
Falling back, Washed Out
Happy Cycling, Boards of Canada
Blackbird, The Beatles