January 28th - The Lyrebird: A Documentary Study of Its Song

The Lyrebird is a ground bird - "the size of a small turkey," according to the liner notes - indigenous to Australia. It is, apparently, recognized as one of the most fantastic mockingbirds in the world, and this album is a testament to its musical prowess. Using the same methods of analysis as one would apply to a Bach cantata - as well as technological fixes to, in some cases, slow and repitch the music of the lyrebird so as to be comprehensible to the human ear - this record examines the structure of lyrebird song.

What does it sound like? Well, the very relaxed-sounding Peter Bruce introduces each track, and then plays what sounds to me like, well, birdsong. It's very acrobatic birdsong - with great trills and swooping glissandos - but it's difficult for me.to discern any of the underlying structure in these compositions at all. Part of the problem is that lyrebirds are such great mimics that their own songs contain the imitated calls of other birds - sometimes the calls of more than one other bird, performed at the same time. I would assume an ornithologist familiar with those other bird calls would be amazed by hearing them replicated by the lyrebird, but to me, they sound like bird calls! The real draw for me was the analysis of the compositions, which was interesting and in-depth, even if I couldn't understand what it referred to!

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways