This morning Miranda Krestovnikoff presented the bird that has probably inspired more composers than any other non-European species. In the latest of our Re:Tweets we look at the pied butcherbird of Australia. Click the button to hear the original Radio 4 Tweet of the Day.
the pied butcherbird is a virtuoso of composition and improvisation
Composer, performer, and naturalist Ron Nagorcka (b. 1948) grew up on a sheep farm in Western Victoria. Artamidae (2004) is his five-movement suite celebrating a family of Australian songbirds: the grey butcherbird, Australian magpie, black currawong, pied butcherbird, and grey currawong. He uses a fretless electric guitar to achieve the particular microtonal details he identifies as just intonation - the natural effect of diving or multiplying pitch frequencies in simple ratios. This makes butcherbird song sound slightly out of tune to western ears.
I’m not sure I agree with the analysis, but I do like Nagorcka’s idea that being literally in tune with nature (as opposed to western scales) is something a female listens for in selecting a mate.
perhaps the most magical sound found on the whole Australian continent