Essential albums from Chicago-based from singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Gia Margaret. “Instrumental music it can be kind of endless. Sometimes you wonder if what you made is music at […]
Listen to the chirps: Music supervisor Randall Poster on ‘For the Birds,’ a new 20-LP set of birdsong-inspired song
- Ambient /
- Compilation /
- Folk /
- Jazz /
The massive set features new music by Nick Cave, Blake Mills, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Seu Jorge, Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes and dozens more
Listen to the birds. That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere. – Don Van Vliet
The above guidance was given by the artist otherwise known as Captain Beefheart, who offered it decades back on a list called “Advice for Guitar Players.” Both a tip for, and a critique of, musicians, it was also an ode to the flying, chirping creatures who will not only outlive us all but have been around for longer than humans have roamed the earth. Through all that time, birds have added an oft-ignored score to life itself.
Listening to birdsong, in fact, is an excellent tool for grounding yourself in the here-and-now. If your brain’s too busy, your scrolling hand is starting to ache or the internal chatter is threatening to revolt, find the nearest exit sign and turn on the birdsong.
It actually is that simple, “turning on the birdsong.” It’s the aim of deep listening – to get lost in sound, regardless of source – and the focus of a wondrous new 20-LP box set called For the Birds: The Birdsong Project.
Produced and curated by famed music supervisor Randall Poster (Bottle Rocket, Summer of Soul, Boardwalk Empire, I’m Not There, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, dozens more), the project was born at the beginning of the pandemic as Poster, who’s a New Yorker, and his L.A. friend Rebecca Reagan started hearing things differently. “Everybody’s at home, there are fewer cars on the road and I was becoming much more aware of bird life and the natural world,” Poster told me in early March, adding that he was “finding great comfort in the fact that in this unknowing moment, nature was still doing its thing.”
Poster’s vocation affords him access to virtually any musician hoping for placement in one of his projects, and as such, after he put out the call for songs, he was inundated. What was at first a few dozen snowballed as word spread.
The pitch, Poster recalls: “Get artists to create music built around birds or are incorporating or insinuating birdsong as a means to celebrate the beauty of birds and birdsongs. In doing so, we hoped to draw attention to the crisis facing bird life.”
He continued, “By virtue of the fact that almost nobody seemingly wants to see birds die – except if you’re shooting them for sport – it’s a way to build a community of concern for people without having to adapt or use politically-charged language like ‘climate crisis.’ I thought that was pretty interesting. And everybody was looking for assignments during that dark period, so the response was just overwhelming. People were into it. … One artist led me to another artist, one publisher informed me that one of their writers was a bit of a bird enthusiast. As as we went along, we decided to try to enlist people from all our fields to somehow contribute and be part of this community.
“So we had actors and poetry birthing poems, which I thought was a really sort of nice addition and certainly helped me sequence the record,” Poster said.
Those interested in listening to For the Birds can do so on the major streaming services and you’ll be treated to an overwhelming bounty of beauty. But because we love our objects and this hefty, durable box set will outlive everything except for maybe birds, we’re inclined to direct you to the 20-LP beast. Not only does each of record feature at least a dozen tracks each, but they all have sleeves commissioned by accomplished visual artists and are stored in a kind of pull-out drawer.
The liner notes are basically a book filled with essays, poems and the specifics of each recording. You will be treated to, for example, Natasha Lyonne reading Maggie Smith’s brilliant poem “Good Bones,” a moment that makes the $400 price tag seem less imposing, kinda. Best, all profits will be donated to the National Audubon Society, whose mission for protecting birds and their songs couldn’t be more crucial to life as we know it.
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