The idea behind Birdbath comes from the notion that the recorder was originally 'invented' to mimic birdsong... thousands of years before any electronic equipment was invented. Small flutes made from bones have been found hollowed out and with holes gouged out... we can only suppose these were played and would be used to mimic the sounds around them. Supposition maybe, but I love the idea!
So I originally set out to create a program of pre-written birdsong inspired music. This was first peformed at a gorgeous little church in Teesdale, County Durham in 2019. The program consisted of music from over six centuries, and finished up with an improvisation on recorders, bass guitar and electronics. You can get a glimpse of the evening here:
The improvisation turned out to be the most succesful part of the evening and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Coming from a serious conservatoire background, improvisation had never really been on my radar, so I was stepping out of my comfort zone. The ideas began to tumble out. What about sitting outside and copying the sounds around me? What about sitting in a tree for hours pretending to be a bird (you get cold!)? What about recording birdsong and then playing around with the sounds and then playing over the top of them?
I'm so lucky to live in such a stunning part of the country... right by the Pennines in County Durham. The focus of my project has settled on a little spot right on the edge of farmland, woodland and moorland. Perfect for hearing a really wide variety of birdsong. The sound of the curlew I think will always be my favourite... so hauntingly beautiful.
So now the project is growing and developing every day. I am spending one morning every week recording the dawn chorus in this little magic spot and getting to know every nook and cranny. I'm practising my improvisation and working on my music production skills.
I'm also planning a festival of birdsong: a series of concerts, birdbaths (like a gong bath but with birdsong), sound installations and a series of workshops for children and teenagers. Funding permitted, this will happen at Ushaw College, County Durham in April 2023!