July 27, 2017 — This weekend at the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts, an orchestra will perform music inspired by birdsong. Composers have long riffed on birdsongs, sometimes drawing actual notes and phrases as well as inspiration. One includes a recording of an actual bird singing in the conclusion of an orchestral piece.
Mozart wrote in a notebook that a starling kept in a cage in a shop had learned a melody from one of compositions, before it had even been performed! The master was known for whistling in public. Naturally, he purchased the bird and took it home. Another composer incorporated the notes of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (above) song in one of his pieces.
A bird mimicking a human; humans inspired by birds.
Makes me think about the mockingbird who sang from a perch on the steel slats of the sunscreen on the south end of McCord Hall at Arizona State University. Students and staff hustled on the sidewalk below, oblivious of his complicated melodies and calls.
The connection between our species is profound but almost invisible these days. Maybe that’s part of the reason the world aches.