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A new kind of birdsong: Blending zebra finches with electric guitars

A new kind of birdsong: Blending zebra finches with electric guitars

December 8, 2015
National

"...The one thing you don’t hear much at from here to ear is the song of the zebra finch. It’s less melodic and more percussive than that of Messiaen’s crimson-winged specimen, but like its relative, the male zebra finch will sing all day, in hopes that its flamboyant performance will lead to sex. In rock band terms, it’s a born lead singer. How surprising that Boursier-Mougenot made his birds into low-functioning rhythm guitarists, whose acoustic backup singing is almost completely swamped.

It’s even more surprising when you know that Boursier-Mougenot has been making soundscape recordings since he was a teenager, convinced that there’s no such thing as a noise without musical interest. He was born in 1961, so I’m guessing he was affected by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer’s The Tuning of the World (1977), one of the 20th century’s most influential books about sound, and the first to use the term “soundscape.”

Schafer’s work was the overt inspiration behind the Montreal Sound Map (montrealsoundmap.com), an ongoing Wiki-database of sounds recorded all over the city and mapped using Google Earth. The project’s mission, according to founding twin brothers Max and Julian Stein, is to make “a sonic time capsule” of Montreal, and to get listeners “to lend a musical ear to the soundscape..."

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Related Composers: R. Murray Schafer