…they screeched so beautifully, the exotic birds…

for marimba quartet
dur: 12:00

An unexpected aspect of the quarantine was that my neighborhood became very still, and nature reasserted itself strongly.  While reading outside in the early mornings, I found myself fixated instead on the rampant birdsong all around me.  The wild birds in my Miami backyard included cardinals, mockingbirds, blue jays, doves, a pair of blue and gold macaws, a blue hyacinth macaw, and large flocks of peacocks, different species of ibis, and small green parrots. Some sang the same note over and over, creating a pulse; others called back and forth, or sang long solos. I began to “hear” the songs as sounding on marimbas.  The rhythms and pitches in this work are direct transcriptions of twelve minutes of recordings I took on consecutive mornings, slightly adjusted into nine minutes of music.  To mimic the birds’ antiphony, the quartet is separated into four corners in the concert hall version, and to different gallery windows in the virtual streaming version. The title paraphrases a remark by composer Robert McClure, describing a mechanical boat sound he used in a piece, and also pays homage to Olivier Messiaen’s masterpiece Oiseaux Exotiques.

…they screeched so beautifully, the exotic birds… was written for the Heartland Marimba Quartet in 2020.