13 pieces of classical music inspired by birdsong


23 August 2021, 13:11 | Updated: 23 Aug 2021, 13:16

13 pieces of classical music inspired by birdsong.

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From Vivaldi’s chorus of spring birds singing in The Four Seasons to Messia’s meticulous transcriptions of the intricate cries of blackbirds, we explore the best music capturing the songs of our feathered friends.

Birds of all shapes and sizes bring music to the countryside with their sweet song.

It is always a pleasure to hear feathered friends from all over the world chirping, tweeting, chirping and chirping in songs as musical and touching as those written by great classical composers and, as a result, many composers have turned their pens. to capture the sweet sounds of these birds.

From Renaissance and Baroque composers to living artists incorporating electronics, we explore some of the best pieces of classical music inspired by bird calls.

Read more: 7 pieces of classical music inspired by walking

  1. Clément Janequin: The Song of the Birds

    Composers have performed birdsong for as long as they wrote music, and during the Renaissance era, French composer Janequin celebrated the songs of the blackbird, nightingale and cuckoo in his piece “Le Chant des Birds”. . “On this first day of May, the birds will amaze you…” promises Janequin’s first stanza, and her song keeps its promises.

  2. Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

    The first concerto of Vivaldi’s always popular Four Seasons violin concerto, Spring, opens with a beautiful and brilliant cacophony of birdsong. The trills in the violin parts echo those in the beaks of songbirds, and light, scalic passages evoke their aerobatics and aerobatics.

  3. Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.6 ‘Pastoral’

    In his country-inspired Sixth Symphony, Beethoven accurately transcribes the cries of the nightingale, the quail and the cuckoo in a striking wooden cadence, in the second movement of the piece. A trill in the flute part represents the nightingale, while the oboe is a bristling quail and the clarinets play an unshakeable cuckoo.

  4. Frederick Delius: Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

    The cuckoo from Delius’s 1912 orchestral piece is performed by the clarinet like Beethoven’s bird. The symphonic poem features a melody based on a Norwegian folk song, “In Ola Valley” and is lavishly written in the pastoral orchestral tradition.

  5. Ottorino Respighi: The birds

    Early 20th-century Italian composer Respighi dedicated four movements of this orchestral work to a different bird each, with an introductory “prelude” movement kicking off. The cries of a dove, a hen, a nightingale and a cuckoo are transcribed with precision in the music, alongside the sounds of beating and scratching emitted by the birds going about their business.

  6. Edward Elgar: Owls

    Elgar’s “Owls” is a four-part choral song and is surprisingly dissonant and sparse when contextualized compared to the English composer’s other works. Elgar himself described the dark song, which is dubbed an “epitaph” as “only a fantasy [that] does not mean anything “.

    “It’s obviously in a wood at night and the recurring ‘Nothing’ is just an owl sound”, Elgar noted.

  7. Maurice Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé (Sunrise)

    Few pieces of music evoke the morning more perfectly than the movement of the dawn of the ballet of the French impressionist composer Ravel, Daphnis and Chloe. And no sublime morning is complete without birdsong. Ravel’s music makes us trill and sing birds in the treetops, offering cool breezes and bursts of sunshine in a moment of pure orchestral ecstasy.

  8. Camille Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals

    The playful of Saint-Saëns Animal carnival has eight named species and involves countless others in its fourteen movements – among them, many birds. There is the elegant swan, a cuckoo in the depths of the woods, playful collections of feathered friends in an aviary (“Aviary”), chickens and roosters. In terms of bird songs in the music, a highlight is the virtuoso performance of the chatter of birds by the flute in the “Aviary” movement.

  9. Olivier Messiaen: The Blackbird

    Holding on to the flute, the great Frenchman Messiaen lent the instrument to his meticulous transcription of a complex song by a blackbird in his 1952 piece of the same name. The Blackbird in French it is literal, dramatic and as unpredictable as the flying and wild bird itself.

  10. Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf

    Pierre and the Wolf is a “symphonic children’s fairy tale”, composed in 1936. Prokofiev stated that “each character in this tale is represented by a corresponding instrument in the orchestra” and the flute is a flying bird while the oboe plays the duck . The instruments have recurring tunes that bring their designated creatures to life during pivotal plot moments.

  11. Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus

    The piece for orchestra by Finnish composer Rautavaara in 1977, Cantus Arcticus is subtitled “Concerto for Birds and Orchestra” and incorporates recordings of songs from birds captured near the Arctic Circle. There are larks, migrating swans and other birds preserved in the captivating and deeply moving music.

  12. Sally Beamish: Four Songs of Hafez

    British composer and violist Sally Beamish has composed this collection of songs for high voice and harp. The 2007 song cycle contains “sets of the 14th-century Persian Sufi poet, each using a bird or animal to describe separation from the beloved and his longing for the beloved,” Beamish explains, and the nightingale, peacock and rare hoopoe each take center stage. .

  13. Chris Hughes: Slow Motion Blackbird

    Contemporary composer Chris Hughes took a very simple idea for his piece inspired by birdsong: record the call of a blackbird, have a cellist perform that call – providing music that is roughly up to the mark. ‘unison with it, but with improvisation allowed – keep repeating it, and gradually slow it down until new aspects of the melody and interesting phrases can be extracted from the original song of the blackbird. The overall high is mesmerizing, addicting, and deeply hypnotic.

    The technique is inspired by experimental composer Steve Reich’s instruction to “slow down a recorded sound to several times its original length without changing its pitch.”


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