Where Song Began—Music for Australia

photo: ABC Tiger Webb

Australia holds a unique and important place in the biological history of our planet. Several important groups of animals arose there, and the continent’s relative isolation allowed their descendants to evolve further and flourish until recently. Australian birds, in particular, are some of the most accomplished and intelligent in the world, including the greatest vocal mimic (lyrebird) in animal kingdom as well as the only nonhuman animal (black palm cockatoo) to manufacture and use a musical instrument. Australia, biologists believe, is also where songbirds originated. So in a sense, it is the birthplace of music itself.

As readers know, catastrophic wild fires now are sweeping Australia on a scale perhaps unprecedented in historical times. While the number of human deaths (25) has been lower than in the California fires of the past few years, the ecological devastation is almost beyond comprehension. Estimates are that between half a billion and a billion animals have been killed; entire species may have been extinguished.

On Saturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9, the Bowerbird Collective (Simone Slattery, baroque violin, and Anthony Albrecht, baroque cello) will present “Where Song Began,” a special concert, to raise funds in support of Australian wildlife during and after this crisis. Where Song Began is an ode to Australia, in particular its incredible songbirds and the landscapes they inhabit.

50-minutes long, this work features live music on baroque instruments spanning 300 years (from Schmelzer to Arvo Pärt), visual projections of birds and their landscapes, as well as an immersive natural soundscape. It tells the story of the evolution of songbirds, and how they shaped the world.

Where Song Began has been performed over 60 times across Australia, as well as in New York and London. It has been hailed in the press as “…a work of art; a transfixing soundscape that embraces cultures and ages, the composed and the improvised, the indigenous and the stylised and which highlights the utterly unique birdsongs of Australia.”

Please see www.wheresongbegan.com for more information. Here is a pdf guide to the show, and you can listen to the CD here. Here are two short promotional videos: here and here.

Performances take place Saturday, February 8, 7:00 p.m., at Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco,  and Sunday, February 9, 6:00 p.m., at the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way, Orinda. Tickets are $30 for Adults, $5 for youth 18 and under. Advance tickets are available at www.wheresongbegan.com. All profits donated will support Australian wildlife in the bushfire crisis.

Written by Jonathan Harris
San Francisco Early Music Society