Birds Singing Other Birds' Songs

Maria Mencia

Birds Singing Other Birds' Songs

Each of twelve birds can be cued and combined, appearing graphically and typographically, their songs sung by people. The piece reveals an unusual way in which sounds can be carried through writing into sound again. This process happens in literary and linguistic representation all the time, but Birds Singing Other Birds' Songs heightens our sense of this process.

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Author description: This work originated when I was invited to exhibit at the Medway Galleries. The most interesting features of the gallery were its high ceiling and three large windows, which I was inspired to use in the work. I wanted to explore kinetic typography, the animation of images and sound. I came across a transcription of birds' songs in the book The Thinking Ear. Suddenly, I was drawn to this transcription because of the similarities with the phonemes I was using in my other works. The repetitive aspect of letters and what looked like syllables reminded me of sound poems. So, I decided to ask some singers to sing their own interpretation of the transcriptions of the songs, in order to play with the interpretative process of these translations. Having been translated first from birds' song into linguistic interpretations, now the birdsongs would be re-interpreted by the human voice. The sounds that emerged from this study were later attached to the animated birds in the shape of calligrams. The outlines and letters of the text birds corresponded to the transcribed sound made by each bird, so making the birds sing their own visual-textual compositions. Nevertheless, the sound does not correspond to the real bird. The visual character of the typographical character was another important characteristic in the making of each individual bird, which leads to the matter of the materiality, virtuality, and movement of the letter. This work has shown an incredible versatility in reshaping itself into different forms of media and possibilities of presentation and thus of exploration.

Instructions: To hear the sound, turn on the computer's speakers or plug in headphones. Click the buttons with the triangles to add one or more birds. To stop a bird, click the square button below the corresponding number.

Previous publication: Birds Singing Other Birds' Songs was first exhibited at the Medway Gallery in 2001 and later that year at La Huella Multiple. There is also a web version available at Mencia's site, http://www.m.mencia.freeuk.com.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.