Composers' appropriation of pied butcherbird song

Henry Tate's 'undersong of Australia' comes of age

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article surveys the range of strategies employed by composers who make overt reference to birdsong as a model, with a particular focus on the pied butcherbird. The species plays a conspicuous role in the appropriation of Australian birdsong by composers, as first proposed by Henry Tate in the early twentieth century. The interrogation of birdsong also has currency in analytical practice, provoking issues such as musical universals and the role of transcription and analysis in composition. In human compositional design, pied butcherbird's protean vocalisations are well represented as the source in a myriad of arenas. Tate's vision of composers tapping into Australia's birdsong resources is materialising.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of music research online
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Henry Tate
  • Zoömusicology
  • Birdsong
  • Pied butcherbird
  • Messiaen

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