Why Do The Birds

Spring is here, and the birds singing on treetops overcome loud streets with their ancient music. I’ve just read that most birds sing in a frequency ranging between 1000 Hz and 8000 Hz – an optimal range for human hearing; always happy to have a scientific explanation as to why I enjoy something so much. I remind myself that while we call it “singing”, for the birds no such word exists… they simply communicate the news and necessities of their days, while all we can do is listen carefully (eavesdrop?) and wonder which secrets are being told among the high branches.

Olivier Messiaen used to go into the woods with a block of music paper to notate bird-songs. He observed and documented nature like a painter sitting in a wild meadow with a palate of oil paints and a canvas. A few decades later, when I hear a random bird twittering, I think of Messiaen – imagine that. Le merle noir for flute and piano is a notation of a blackbird’s song (on the right: a cooperative blackbird I came across last week):


McCartney’s Blackbird, on the other hand, quotes no birds at all – his blackbird is merely a symbol to the human world he saw around him. The song is about racism:

“Why do the birds go on singing?”
[Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee]

So many works were created after someone was listening to the singing of the birds – if only they knew! But there is nothing more fabulous than the simple fact, that the birds go on singing with or without our art… last year they sang just the same (recorded from my bedroom’s window, in 2016, as the sun was slowly rising):