Friday, November 27, 2009

The Hidden Beauty of the Willy Wagtail

I've recently moved house, and I've gone from living in a very urban, high density living area to a more suburban place. One thing that has struck me are the amount of birds that are in the area, especially at around 5am or so. I've been doing some field recordingin my backyard recently from between 5am and 6am, and I've been noticing this willy wagtail bird that has been singing quite consistently.

After transposing one of his phrases down by 24 semitones, I am amazed at the rich detail in the sound. It always intrigues me - this idea that there are many aesthetically pleasing elements of sound that fall outside of our direct perception and must be treated in some way in order to be revealed and brought into our conscious awareness.

Now for some sound examples:
- willy wagtail phrase (normal)
- willy wagtail phrase (slowed down by 2 octaves)


Tristan Louth-Robins said...


As you probably know Messiaen went nutso over bird calls for awhile and attempted to sythesise/appropriate their songs. With psuedo-romantic degrees of success.

Sebastian Tomczak said...

For sure, I love some of Messiaen's stuff

Wgreen said...

yay im glad to see you doing field recording work.

Jacko said...

On the new Digital Radio in Adelaide, there is actually a channel dedicated to just playing birds singing, although its a loop its always fun to try and pick out as many tones and rhythms as possible!

Sebastian Tomczak said...

@ Wgreen: :) @ jacko: Bird station FTW!

Poppi said...

I'm not big on ornithology, however, when I was at that silly conference in Canberra earlier this year I learned that a bird brain is able to process (sonic) information at a rate ten times faster than that of the average human brain; a fact which pretty much goes towards discounting our original notion of what it means to have/be a "bird brain."

Lovely :)

Sebastian Tomczak said...

@ poppi: 10 x , wow amazing! Although that doesn't surprise me that much.