Listening to the Birds: Saturday, Aug. 22 | 10pm

by Maggie Molloy

The red-whiskered bulbul is one of the birds that inspired composer Olivier Messiaen. Photo by Prasanna Venkatesh G.

You can learn a lot from the birds—when you’re quiet enough to listen.

The freedom and spontaneity of birdsong has inspired composers across the ages, including many composers today. Each one has its own unique melody, rhythm, timbre, and tune.

This week on Second Inversion, we’re listening to the birds. From mourning doves to evening vespers, we’ll hear music written for an entire orchestra of birds. Plus, a piece that brings together birdsongs from all around the globe.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, August 22 at 10pm PT.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, July 22 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Leah Kardos: Core feat. Leah Kardos, electronics (bigo & twigetti)

a2980782583_10Leah Kardos’ debut album, Feather Hammer, is an expression in 12 tracks of her love for her very first instrument: the piano.  She’s added some sparse electronica and a selection of hand-picked effects to “Core” that create a marriage of lyrical piano & melancholia.  Should I call it ambient piano?  Euphonic dreamscape classical?  Austere electronica?  Whatever I’m not into labels, I’ll just close my eyes and let her music kiss the quiet spaces in my mind. – Rachele Hales


Roberto Sierra: Triptico feat. David Tanenbaum, guitar; Shanghai String Quartet (New Albion)
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I must confess that I have never been a huge fan of classical guitar works, and I’m not a huge fan of the combination of guitar and strings, either. However, maybe I’m starting to see the light, because I really enjoy the sounds of this chamber music work of Roberto Sierra that evokes his native Puerto Rico. The first movement is lush and bewitching, with a musical nod to the tree frog known colloquially as “coqui.” Many great composers recognized the value of a playful pizzicato obbligato intermezzo as a middle movement, and it works wonders here in the guitar and string combination. The rhythmic flourishes of the third and final movement are even more fun and surprising. Music like this serves as an important reminder: always listen with an open mind! –
Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this recording.


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Olivier Messiaen: “Oiseaux Exotiques” (Yvonne Loriod, piano; Ensemble InterContemporain; Pierre Boulez, conductor) (Naïve Records)

There are an estimated 10,000 species of birds on Earth, each with its own unique song—and Olivier Messiaen wanted to learn them all.

No other composer (or ornithologist, for that matter) was ever so completely committed to the painstaking transcription, study, and musical application of birdsong as Messiaen. Together with his second wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, he traveled far and wide to discover the distinctive melodies of exotic birds from around the world.

Messiaen’s 15-minute masterwork “Oiseaux Exotiques” brings together the idiosyncratic songs of 18 different bird species from India, China, Malaysia, and the Americas, creating a brilliantly colored orchestra of feathered friends which would otherwise never cross paths in nature. Composed for piano and a strident ensemble of woodwinds, brass, and percussion, the work’s twinkling timbral palette and spontaneous melodies combine elements of both Eastern and Western musical traditions.

Because East or West, near or far, loud or soft, and big or small, every bird has a song—if we just slow down and listen. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this recording.