Prolouge & Avian Chatters (2021)
For solo violin
Commissioned by and dedicated to Marco Fusi
Avian Chatters is based on the calls of the Australian Supreme Lyrebird. The Lyrebird is most notable for its extraordinary ability to mimic both natural and artificial sounds from its local environment. Also female lyrebirds mimic complex vocalisations.
Young birds take about a year to perfect their mimicked repertoire. Their song is an intricate mixture of elements of songs and noises, like the chatter and songs of other birds, sounds from animals such as koalas and dingoes, but also man-made sounds like chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, music, mobile phones and even the human voice.
The lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound, and a legend says that a lyrebird chick that was raised in captivity in the 1920s, started to mimic the sounds of the household’s flute player. When released back into the wild, this flute-like songs and timbre spread throughout the local lyrebird population.
Recordings of Supreme Lyrebird, also from the so-called «flute lyrebirds», are used as material in this piece. By following the lyrebird’s behaviour as a composer, I have chosen phrases from recordings of Lyrebird noises and songs and put them together in my own way. By translating these sounds very exactly to the violin, both melodically and rhythmically, and then mixing it with new violin techniques, the violin player becomes a new type of lyrebird, raised in our sound tradition.
Superb Lyrebird was driven almost to extinction due to habitat clearing and hunting for their stunning tail feathers. The population has since recovered, but the 2019-2020 bushfires damaged much of its habitat, which may lead to a reclassification of its status from ‘common' to ‘threatened’.
Picture: Menura Superba - Superb Lyrebird (1800) by Thomas Davies, From Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, Volume 6.