The raw material for the BIRD CRY score was selected from a list of mnemonics and onomatopoeias collected from bird books and archives, and from suggestions made by ornithologists, friends and bird lovers. The score is a carefully selected list of these described bird calls.
Each call on this list was freely interpreted by the musicians involved. Their calls were recorded and assembled by Boyd into the BIRD CRY composition and heard through many small speakers in the work. The sound was mixed to move around 5 separate channels to give listeners a feeling of space.
The Bird selection was made for both musical and thematic reasons. The descriptions needed to work as triggers to challenge and excite the Musicians imaginations and to provide a rich pallet of sound for the composition. Each musician was recorded in isolation with only the score to guide them. They endeavour to recreate a lost language of the birds.
The musicians were carefully selected for their exceptional abilities at working with unusual musical ideas and their ability to create unusual sounds on their instruments. Julian Curwin Guitar, Peter Dasent Piano, Steve Elphick Double Bass, Sam Golding Sousaphone. Recording and Composition Boyd Producer Tony Gorman Sound Engineer Stephen Morley.
1. Bush stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius.
Status: Endangered in NSW Federally secure.
Voice: ‘eerie high-pitched wail’ ’eerie, a drawn out, mournful- ‘wee-ier, wee-ier, wheee-ieeer, whee-ieer-loo. Each call rises, strengthening, faster, building to a climax, then trails away.’
2. Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus.
Status: Possibly locally extinct Greater Southern Sydney. Uncommon to rare; endangered in many parts of range by loss of habitat in excessively frequent fires. Voice: ‘series of piercing, ringing, resonant whistles, rising in steps, each note flowing on almost unbroken, but abruptly higher than the preceding; or lower notes at a more even pitch. Cheerful budgie-like warbling and sharp, rapid trills.’
3. Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza phygia
Status: Extremely rare winter visitor/declining Greater Southern Sydney. Greatly reduced in range and numbers; migratory with routine circuit of visits to forests as each comes into flower. Breeding migrant to SE. In flocks, formerly quite large, but now usually small. Scarce and endangered. Voice: ‘clear bell-like notes, some quite sharp, others deep, rich, mellow, musical: ‘quip-quorrip, quip-kip, quorrop-quip’; and sharper ‘chlink, chlink’.
4. Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera
Status: Common Voice: ‘repeated oom-oom-oom of fugitive but carrying quality, repeated monotonously.’
5. Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus
Status: Common Voice: ‘an extraordinary jumble of notes one of which has been interpreted as 4 o'clock’
6. Superb Blue-wren Malurus cyaneus
Status: Common Voice: ‘The basic, or Type I, song is a 1–4 second high-pitched reel consisting of 10–20 short elements per second.’ ‘A vigorous trill, beginning squeakily, but quickly strengthening into a strong, downward cascade of louder, less sharp musical notes.’
7. Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
Status: Common. Rare in South of range. Evidence of population decline. Voice: ‘long descending 'seeo' followed by an upward staccato 'si-si-si-si'. ‘One more rabbit and I'll spew!’
8. Nocturnal Ground Parakeet Pezoporus (Geopsitticus) occidentalis
Status: Critically Endangered thought extinct but rediscovered in 2005 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia Voice: from a captive once held at Melbourne botanical gardens: ‘as yet it has not been heard to utter any sound except a “Faint whistle” Gould’
Status: Common Voice: ‘parnparnparlarla’. ‘it’s a beautiful sound.. a kind of comforting sound....’
10. Hawai'i Mamo Drepanis pacifica (duet with Dodo)
Status: Extinct. Hawaii Voice: ‘single long mournful note’
11. Dodo Raphus cucullatus
Status: Extinct. A meter-high flightless bird found on Mauritius. Its forest habitat was lost when Dutch settlers moved to the island and the Dodo's nests were destroyed by the monkeys, pigs, and cats the Dutch brought with them. The last specimen was killed in 1681, only 80 years after the arrival of the new predators.
Voice: ‘probably “doo doo” though ‘duodo’ is idiot in Portugese’
12. Wren March 1
Tracks 12-14 are based on the Olympian number of notes produced by Wrens! The Winter Wren can produce 100 separate notes in 7 seconds with a repertoire of up to 30 different songs. We recorded our local Superb Blue-wren, slowed it's call down to 1/4 speed and transcribed the call. It produced 187 notes in 6 seconds! The transcribed call was played by each of the musicians. Track 14 is the Wren's call at 1/4 speed, track 13 is the musicians playing the transcribed call, and for track 12 the musicians' calls are sped up to the same speed as the original Wren's call.