CAT# (YEAR COMPOSED): 91 (2015)
DURATION (APPROX): 8’46
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: Moritz Ernst, July 8, 2016. NUSPACE in Chengdu (China)
NOTE1: After his performance of Thrush at the New Music Concert series (Robert Aitken, Artistic Director) in Toronto, Moritz Ernst paraphrasing the comments of an elder gentleman wrote,
“(The Elderly gentleman) told me later, that he lives on the shore of the great lakes in a vast estate. On his place the birds in autumn meet before starting to fly over the lake. He said that these thousands of birds make a very special sound, because they move their wings without flying, some birds attempt to sing and there is plenty of noise around. He said, that what you did in Thrush is producing exactly this atmosphere of excitement and exactly these sounds.”
AWARD: April 21, 2016. 1st Excellent Award. Fifth China-ASEAN Music Week (2016) musical composition competition, For solo piano. (Guangxi University of the Arts. http://camwn.gxau.edu.cn/Item/156.aspx)
NOTE2: On the performance by Moritz Ernst, The Elderly gentleman (Jeffrey Smyth) wrote:
“Perhaps I can add a few more details about the flock of birds we sometimes see in our garden.
We live close to the centre of Toronto on the bank of the Don River, a major valley through the city. Toronto has an unusual topography, thanks to the ice ages that passed through here. The table land is cut by river valleys and by what we refer to as ravines. A famous local environmentalist referred to these as “the lungs of the city”. After many disputes over a long period of time, all building is now banned in the ravine and valley system, so most of the land remains in a natural state and is full of animals, including birds.
We live at the top of the bank, next to an old clay quarry, looking down into the valley. We have a small forest behind our house, the remnant of a Carolinian forest that once covered this whole region before the people moved in. The trees are mainly tall oaks and maples. We are about three kilometres from Lake Ontario, which we can see in the distance.
We also happen to be located on one of the main bird flyways. The birds come north in the spring and fly south in the autumn. On their journey, they have to cross Lake Ontario, the last and smallest of the Great Lakes, but it is the world’s 13th largest lake and from the shore in Toronto to the shore in New York state is more than 30 km. When they have crossed the lake they are looking for a place to land and rest.
In the fall, the main excitement starts as the weather begins to cool and the leaves start to change colour. One morning we will notice that the trees are already full of birds. They share a sense of excitement as more and more arrive. The branches become heavy with birds. The air becomes noisy with bird chatter. There is a true sense of excitement, as they chirp encouragement and dare each other to make the flight across the lake. The lead birds fly excitedly from branch to branch increasing the cacophony as they work up their courage. Suddenly, one of the birds makes a break toward the open lake, and the rest of the flock rise into the air to follow. And then they are gone.
As I listened to Michael Edgerton’s THRUSH I could only think about the birds in the trees excitedly waiting to take to the air, and I had to tell you about it. Please feel free to use my words if they help to fill in the picture made by Michael’s piece. For me, it was a highlight of your brilliant performance.”
RECORDINGS: Here’s a recording by Moritz Ernst on July 12th in Bangkok
NOTE3: THRUSH begins with my reinterpretation of the same audio that Messiaen used for his transcriptions of the North American Songbirds, blackbird and wood thrush. These audio samples were digitized and analysed using PRAAT and C-Speech, from which I made new transcriptions that were more accurate representations of the physical acoustical signal. Of course, a temporal framework had to be established for these transcriptions, for which I decided to treat in a non-metrical fashion, since birds presumably do not think in terms of man-made meters and units. Then paired with the acoustical signal, I did research on the physical mechanism by which the birds produced sounds. These involved analyses of airflow, source, resonance and articulation for both blackbird and wood thrush. It was found that some bird species produce multiphonic & biphonic signals using paired bronchi, while others used a single bronchus. When using paired bronchi to produce two independent frequency contours, the dynamical interpretation would result in two simultaneous limit cycles; meanwhile, two independent frequency contours produced by a single bronchus would result in the occurrence of nonlinear phenomena, here interpreted as a torus. Such information may not be so important when writing for piano, but can have enormous implications when writing for wind, brass, string and voice.
Then secondly, these interpretations were paired with a binary code which resembles chance, but whose underlying principles were quite simple. This code was developed by a D. G. Champernowne, published in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society 8 (1933): 254-60. This code was used to generate time, pitch, scales, register, density and so forth.
From the premiere:
A gift from Sara Assari (Iran):