Tag Archives: birds

When The Sound of Nature and Sci-Fi Collide

Or: The Strange Things I Think Late At Night

The last week or so I’ve woken up to the sound of birds outside my window. Nothing unusual about that, all things considered, except for the fact that there’s one in particular that has suddenly appeared and whistles a sound exactly like the eerie tone played in old sci-fi movies or TV shows when something bizarre or spooky has happened. I can’t think of any way to describe it other than that, and while I was prepared to scour the sci-fi category of a sound effects website, I didn’t find what I was looking for after 20 minutes and subsequently ended the quest.

Rather more amusing than unsettling, particularly for others I warrant as I wake each morning feeling like I’ve entered my own little Twilight Zone for an hour or so, and every time the bird sings it conjures images such as the following to mind:

After a while, however, I started think about how I related to this sound, and then how I relate to the general ambience of the natural world around me. I certainly grew up in the age of television so I’m no stranger to shows like Star Trek, Dr Who, The Twilight Zone or even Hitchcock Presents, where similar sounds of mystery were often intoned; so I suppose in a way it’s unsurprising that my immediate thought goes to those kind of references. One of the primary reasons something gains pop culture status, after all, is the uncanny ability it has to appeal, and embed itself into, the psyche of common folk. What struck me the most was the notion that where once, a long time ago now, instuments were created to mimic the sound of nature, such as when a rattle was shook one might think of rainfall, or a deep drum would recall rolling thunder, now I wake up to a birdcall and think of Dr Spock. Something very strange and disturbing is afoot indeed!

Quite obviously it’s this select sound that has prompted the thought, but I find it an interesting one none the less, particularly considering that in order for me to have paid any real attention to it I had to find it unusual. The thought in question being exactly how much attention I pay to sounds – music, if you will – that exist out in the world in general, the constant song of non-human life. The sounds of nature are perhaps not only the oldest form of freely improvised sound there is, but one that has no definitive beginning, middle or forseeable end (no, not entertaining the possiblity of absolute silence should the world in fact end). Mother Earth = insurmountable and unrelenting jazz musician? I can dig it.


It would seem she's also quite partial to improvised dance

Of course, the flip side to that thought (there’s always a b-side) is how nature relates to us, the world we’ve built up around it and gone so far as to pollute it with (and here, for the sake of ease, I’ll keep this strictly to noise pollution). I have no idea what type of bird it is that is singing this eerie tune every morning, but many are known mimickers, so I guess there’s a bit of classic performer-audience give and take going on here. But the deeper mystery, and unfortunately the one that really intrigues me, is what exactly would this bird – or any bird – translate that kind of sound to? To me, as mentioned, it’s a synthesised whistle to denote spookiness in the fantasy world of old TV shows;  but if it so happened that this particular bird happened to hear such a sound eminating from the basement of some trekkie out there, it surely must have struck a chord somehow, and it makes me wonder just what kind of song it’s translated into through the voice of this singing little birdie.

Ok, so the realist in me recognises that chances are high this bird is all excited about discovering a  new mating call, considering the driving force of nature and all. Actually the fantasist in me likes that explanation, too, but it’s also saying what if it’s not? My imagination, at near 2am, is running nearly as wild as Mother Nature herself with all the possible things this one little tune could mean to a bird. Are these great things to ponder? Absolutely!



Bird Songs

Favourite Songs About Birds
(which are really about love)

Birds have a fairly long symbolic history. They are hunters, seekers and scavengers, lovers, harbingers/omens (both good and bad), guardians and sages. They are symbols for the struggle to freedom, have been admired, worshipped, feared….and eaten….for centuries.

Considering all that we take them to represent, it’s no real surprise that they crop up frequently in art – audio, visual and probably just about any other medium you can think of.  So, with that in mind I’ve compiled a quick list of some of my favourite songs that have reflected upon life or love, using the image and/or theme of birds.

New Birds by Arab Strap
From the album Philophobia, the song is one chapter of a 13-track story exploring sex and love – the suburban side of relationships rather than your typical epic tragedies or grand declarations. New Birds tells the story of seeing an old love again for the first time in years, the awkwardness, the curiosity and then the temptation of opportunity (even though both have ‘new birds’ – ie are in relationships with other people).

Favourite lyrics:
“…you can’t remember how she kissed and now you’ve got the chance to find out. But you have to remember there’s this other kiss. She’s at home wondering where you are and what you’re doing. And you worked hard on this kiss and you know it inside out, it’s as much yours as it is hers.”

Phoenix by Inga Liljestrom
From one of my all-time favourite albums – Elk, which I have reviewed here previously – Phoenix is an absolute stunner. Whoever Inga’s muse was for this album must have had a pretty special kind of magic.

Favourite lyrics:
“I trace the places
you have been in me
come my love
only you can thaw this ice in me

Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
No such list could possibly exist without this song. The lyrics are beautifully simple, a little bit sad, and maybe even a bit of salt to the wound for anyone who’s ever been told “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Favourite lyrics:
“If I leave here tomorrow
will you still remember me?”

Early Bird by The Frames
I’m a really big fan of this song at the moment – it’s exactly the kind of song music was created for. That’s it!

Favourite lyrics:
Will not rush it, will enjoy it
Will not touch it, will rejoice it

Sing, Little Birdie by Shearwater
One of my favourite songs – it’s such a beautifully sweet and simple little bird-song. (Bonus double points for the band name, too, being a bird and all). I play this song often, and think very fondly about… things.

Favourite lyrics:
Hey, little birdie, catching my eye
Sing little sweet things into this mind
And tug at my darker side

Fly to the bed where we are confined
Combing the cancers out of our lives
And harness your song with mine
And whose tongue gave you life but mine

Which is actually the entire song…


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