Bird Week: Birds in Art, Life, Poetry and Song

 The Seattle Public Library is partnering with the Seward Park Audubon Center for Bird Week, April 23-30, in celebration of the center’s tenth anniversary and the National Audubon Society’s 2018 Year of the Bird.

A dawn chorus awakens the world. From hemisphere to hemisphere we rise to the sound of birds. As we make our way through a day, somewhere near, a bird makes its presence known. Their songs and calls can be a melodious counterpoint to the army of mechanical sounds surrounding us, but for a bird their throaty repertoire is serious business. Do you ever think of the sounds that birds make as a language? Each bird is speaking a language particular to its kind. No matter how we try to imitate their sounds we will never know what, exactly, all that chattering is about!

From complex vocalizations to simple trills, birds are defending territory, seeking a mate or announcing the presence of a predator. Birds have their business and we mind it in very particular ways. Find out how in Birdnote: Chirps, Quirks and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio Show.

For us, a bird, also, becomes more than a bird. They become metaphor, inspiration and icon. Birds are so enmeshed in our daily lives that we do not even imagine them as wild animals. Wild, they are, winging their way from rooftop to rooftop, dipping, swooping, diving, ascending to great heights and singing at the top of their voice.

Now, birds have taught us a thing or two about singing. While I haven’t found any verifiable evidence, I firmly believe that birds have taught us the art of scat singing. Check out Ella Fitzgerald’s One Note Samba. There are, definitely, some birdy sounds bouncing off her vocal chords.

Birds show us the infinite possibilities of color, pattern and movement. Admire each egg-centric size and shape in The Book of Eggs. Marvel at the architectural ingenuity of Nests. Put a feather in your cap, add a sound track while you sit back and leisurely leaf through these books. Start with Birding by Ear, try Birdsong by the Seasons or Healing Birdsong.   Then, stretch your wings! Give yourself A Night at Birdland, check out Bird Concerto with Pianosong, a melding of bird vocalizations and musical instrument accompaniment. Then, listen to Bird Calls coming out of a saxophone.

Some people are just not satisfied with flying inside a machine, they want to strap on wings and soar! Matt Higgins wants the wind on his face and the earth far below his feet. See how he does it in Bird Dream. There’s all kinds of ways to “touch the sky.” Get well versed in flights of imagination in Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds.

While we see the same birds, an artist’s style and sensibility in the painting of a bird differs, widely. Two striking examples can be seen in Lars Jonsson’s Birds: Paintings from a Near Horizon and Charles Harper’s Birds and Words.

Feather your nest with information, inspiration on birds and more by checking out the resource list Birds in Art, Life, Poetry and Song!

~ Posted by Chris

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