The sounds and songs of birds have inspired the musical compositions of numerous cultures throughout the globe. This article examines a variety of compositions from Western music that feature birdsong and explores the concept of birds as both vocalists and instrumentalists. The concept of birds as composers is then developed—how they use rhythmic variations, pitch relationships, and combinations of notes similar to those found in music—and the theory that birds create variation in their songs partially to avoid monotony is considered. Various families of birds that borrow sounds from other species are surveyed, in particular the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), which may have inspired a Mozart composition. We conclude that the fusion of avian bioacoustics and the study of birdsong in music may function as a conservation tool, raising the awareness of humans and stimulating future generations to save for posterity what remains of the natural world.


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pp. 426-443
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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