Bellbirds are among the treasures of the New Zealand bush. Perhaps not the most spectacular of birds in appearance—they are small, green and quite hard to spot in the forest—but, wow, can they sing! I always feel I’m on holiday when I hear bellbirds, and (I just can’t help myself) I often find I’m working out their melodies and imagining a piece of music I’ll co-write with them.
Last weekend we went away for a much needed break from screens and routines. We took our campervan a few hours drive from our home to a restful area called Peel Forest. We knew of the lovely bush walks there, several of which we hadn’t done before. Bellbirds are heard throughout the bush there, with their melodies varying from one area to another. As soon as we entered the bush on one particular walk one of the locals sang its melodious song. I managed to record it on my phone:
It was echoed by other bellbirds around the walk: some sang the complete tune, some seemed to have only learned 1 or 2 notes of the main theme, and others had added a simple coda to it. Every now and then they would sing one after another in an antiphonal style. This reminded us of the time on a walk much nearer home, when we stopped awestruck at the symphonic beauty of a chorus of bellbirds singing the same melody in unison and other bellbirds across the bushes answering them.
Robin thought the song sung on last weekend’s bush walk was reminiscent of the melody a couple of my pupils learned on violin and cello respectively this year – Minuet 2 by Bach.
In our western music we don’t include birdsong as part of our diatonic scale system, but I remember learning in my ethnomusicology studies about some cultures that absolutely include birdsong as part of their music system.
Nevertheless, many classical composers over the years have been inspired by birdsong. Respigi’s “The Birds” comes to mind as just one example.
And every child’s music book seems to have a ‘Cuckoo Song’ in it somewhere.
It’s not surprising that bird songs are popular. Birds are natural singers and they do it so well as part of fulfilling their role in the grand scheme of things. The dawn chorus is an especially inspiring soundscape at the start of the day. For me, it is as though the birds begin their day encouraging any listeners to thank the Creator for the new day like they do: with a heart bursting with song.
We all have a song, as it were, in life. Sometimes we know what it is, but some of us are still trying to work out the notes. Whatever stage your song is at, don’t stop singing it. Someone near you needs to be encouraged by your tune.
5 thoughts on “What is Your Song?”
Rachael Green says:
Beautiful. I’ve been encouraged by my singing teacher and others to write my song. Finding courage and finding your voice and valuing it enough to share it with the world in the hope that someone else might find it resonates is something the native birds do so naturally. Inspiring indeed.
Delwyn McKenzie says:
What a lovely response! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and it sounds like you need to keep singing – literally! What a treat to have that amazing unplanned meet up at Mt Peel. Next time we’ll organise it 😉
Joy Atkinson says:
Ah yes, and we all need to stop at times and just listen to the birds…life becomes far too hectic at this time of the year…thanks for the encouragement to listen to their beautiful songs! Blessings and Love…
Delwyn McKenzie says:
Thanks Joy, I’m sure they sound quite different where you live too.
I really love this blog entry. I think we all need to hear this. Bless you <3