Absolute Bird: concerto for recorder and chamber orchestra

Hollis Taylor (Composer)

Research output: Non-traditional research outputComposition


Debuted 21 October 2017 with Genevieve Lacey and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

1.Greens Park, Georgetown. 12 October 2015: I pull up at 4:00am and set out my microphones. In the riverbed just down from the welcoming cow sign stands a large tree where fruit bats squabble and flap their opera cloaks. At 4:25am, another resident of this arboreal high rise slowly begins their nocturnal song. It’s the pied butcherbird. Their solo songs all differ one from another, partially or entirely, and may span up to seven hours. In this movement, recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey both matches and riffs off the bird’s song, while the orchestra performs as a large-scale (pre-)dawn chorus.

2.Georgetown Antiphons. Pied butcherbirds also sing in groups. These ensemble songs are their classics, indicating musical custodianship of many an agreed-upon local tradition. To begin the movement, a concentrated sampler of Georgetown group songs gives way to a friarbird, a cane toad, and then several kookaburras. The orchestra enters with the task of restating the avian ensemble phrases, although at a more leisurely pace. Genevieve nearly becomes part of the orchestra.

Absolute George. Audio of a cricket (we think!) accompanies Genevieve and is layered against the rich sound palette of the orchestra. They celebrate six pied butcherbird nocturnal songs from Georgetown: the Golf Course 2010 (5:15am, 7 October); Goldfields Caravan Park 2010 (4:24 am, 6 October) and 2013 (3:51am, 25 October); Georgetown Van Park 2010 (5:00am, 7 October) and 2013 (5:05am, 25 October); and Greens Park 2013 (4:37am, 25 October). The final bird-musician is likely the same individual as in movement one. These feathered choristers remind us that although we could think of songbirds as distant, earthly, and substandard ancestors, we could instead consider them as world-forming colleagues and contemporaries, and I do.
Original languageEnglish
Size15 minutes duration
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2017


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