Observation is a powerful skill. Not too long ago we were able to check out bird specimens from our local natural history museum. Sadly they've discontinued this service, but not before we were able to closely observe, sketch, and research more than a dozen species indigenous to our neck of the woods. Simultaneously, we studied the life work of Audubon. As we read, we embroidered original drawings of the birds we were researching.
This past spring, my daughter Hannah graduated from college. As she was a music performance and composition major, she had to write a significant body of original music. All of her music is experimental—Composition for Piano and Toy Piano, Piano and Hands, and so on. But it was the piece that she chose to play at her senior recital that made me smile, no doubt a nod to all the Observation Journal activities from her home school years.
This is what she has to say about composing the piece, entitled BirdTree:
I was inspired to write BirdTree when I stumbled across a video of a man who had created a record player that “plays” slices of tree trunks. The sound was transmitted as though a piano unlocks the music of the tree. In a thrift store, I discovered a book entitled, Field Birds and their Songs. These tools helped me imagine the diverse music of nature and inspired me to compose BirdTree. Reflecting now, all that luxurious time observing birds from the museum up close and personal on our own kitchen table must have somehow informed BirdTree. Without doubt this piece is a nod to Audubon! For this composition real melodies of birds are mixed with my personal interpretations of what different trees might sound like if I were wandering and listening to the forest like Audubon. You can hear a mighty oak, a sturdy elm, a weeping willow, and a tall pine interacting with a black and white warbler, the American robin, the blue jay, and the song sparrow. This piece is meant to echo the ethereal of forest life.
It is amazing how the past is stitched to the future.
Listen to BirdTree
Into the Woods: John James Audubon Lives His Dream, Robert Burleigh
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon, Jaqueline Davies