Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring 59: Calvino-Inspired

8:45am-9:30am, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA
misty, wet

The grasses are be-jeweled with fresh rain droplets, as are all the branches.

For the moment, the rain has ceased, but its presence is everywhere in this wet world.

I get a bit wetter, clambering through some tall grass, to record a couple of groovy fellows, same as I heard last week. I've never seen these birds, only heard them, but thanks to Alex's tip on the Daily Bird I've identified them as Black-throated Green Warblers.

I've been ruminating about the idea of imaginary birds and what they might sound like. It's something I've pondered before- on my mind again because of a lovely short story by Italo Calvino.

In "The Origin of Birds", Calvino plays with the idea that birds represent an alternate world: the realm of evolutionary possibilities, "all the forms the world could have taken in its transformations but hadn't". This is also the world of the monsters, "the rejected forms, unusable, lost," who, in Calvino's reckoning, have an essential beauty to them.

I love the text and the imagery of this alternate world, filled with the plants and animals that "might have been", and the idea of birds as the cross-over agent. They are extraordinarily varied and playful creations, aren't they? I'm inspired to try to create this alternate sound-world.


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