Printer-friendly version

Natural Musicians

August 4, 2009 at 10:59 AM


one of the things that made Heifetz so extraordinary was his ability to feel and play in ratios.  This uncanny sense of relative pulse gave him the ability to alter tempos ,  use rubato and make rits and accels in a most musically satisfying way.  There is no better example of this uncanny gift to my mind than the ritenuto before the final third of Bazzini`s Ronde de Lutins.  Many players play this work more or less as brilliantly as Heifetz but nobody comes near the magic of that one little group of notes.  

I was reminded of this the other day when I was biking up a mountain in the early morning.  I can actually listen to the birds now since the gasping for oxygen ad throwing up noises have disappeared from my repertoire.  I was suddenly blown away by the most amazing chirping.   Some lovely varied motifs and then suddenly the most perfect ritenuto one could wish for.  A bird who had heard Heifetz or the other way around?  Either way it was astonishing.  When I got to the top all sounds of nature were utterly obliviated by three old men,  hiking independently ,  who had radios turned on full blast.  These echoed around the mountaintops destroying the last efforts of nature to be sane away from the arrant stupidity of mankind.   A shame to have grown so old and missed the world completely.



From bill platt
Posted on August 4, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Ahhh, miniature japanese transistor radios are so "old school."

From Royce Faina
Posted on August 4, 2009 at 2:40 PM

Is it not thought that Beethoven may have got the idea of the famous opening of the 1st movement of his 5th from a bird that tweets those very notes?

}:^I> Hmmmmmmm

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on August 4, 2009 at 5:16 PM

Buri, I too often amazed by birds’ musicality. Parrots’ ability to mimic aside, the best ones that really put me in shame are the little finches and warblers.  And it's quite flattering when they get louder and louder as I play the violin with windows open.

From John Praxmarer
Posted on August 5, 2009 at 2:06 AM

Yes, birds are nature's vocalists. I remember running up a mountain in Mino City (near Osaka) and having a similar experience with birds (this one was a small owl) and noisy locals with radios. Although my huffing and puffing was probably pretty loud also.

From Ray Randall
Posted on August 5, 2009 at 2:41 AM

We used to live at the 7,400 foot level in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. When I would get home after a few weeks of flying I would greet my wife then pant for an hour or two from lack of oxygen. Just as I got used to the altitude I had to go back to work in St. Louis again. Used to mountain bike all the time so I feel your pain. Used to carry a CD player that blasted out Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on bike rides, especially as the experts there said make lots of noise in the woods to not scare the bears, but just to let them know you are there so they won't be surprised and chase you.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 5, 2009 at 3:44 AM

It's such a shame that those guys' radios destroyed the beautiful sounds of Nature for you.  I always get annoyed with people who use boom boxes or even car audio systems so loud that everyone nearby is forced to listen to them.  Do these guys think that everyone around them would love to listen to the same sounds they do?  They are so terribly selfish.

Posted on August 5, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Buri, loved your post

Yesterday morning, very early to be outside by my standards of coffee and Bach first mission to strip valuable parts off the car I was trading in on the Cash for Clunkers program Gasping and groaning and be-moaning thoughts that I could no longer readily do what I once could as a youth, having reached 59 last week, I saw this itty bitty humming bird...flapping at warp speed and zooming about. Ahhhhhhhh nature. I think my new procedure should and must be coffee "al fresco" and then Bach.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 5, 2009 at 5:38 PM

This blog and discussion, especially the preceding post by Sam, remind me of this poem by Robert Frost.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart

A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.



From Royce Faina
Posted on August 5, 2009 at 7:35 PM

I Love Robert Frosts poems!

From howard vandersluis
Posted on August 6, 2009 at 6:00 PM

"Arrant stupidity"? Buri, those old men are heirs to the people who tamed the aether. They are able to make invisible waves bring them beautiful music (or birdsong for that matter) from anywhere in the world. They are escapees, as are the rest of us, from the tyranny of nature. Yes, birds are nice and I love nature as much as the next guy, but those old guys with radios are celebrating our transcendency...

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on August 6, 2009 at 7:48 PM

 I rest my case...

From howard vandersluis
Posted on August 7, 2009 at 6:04 PM

Well, SOMEBODY has to stick up for those poor old guys!

From Brian Miller
Posted on August 8, 2009 at 1:10 AM

Some birdsongs are incredibly complex. For instance, the American Wood Thrush has two voices boxes, which it uses simultaneously to produce harmonies that are commonly used in music. There is a book, "The Singing Life of Birds" in which the author makes sonograms of birdsongs, and he discovered that many songs are produced so rapidly that the human ear cannot catch everything.   

From Dessie Arnold
Posted on August 8, 2009 at 3:35 AM

The Wood Thrush is my favorite birdsong, and it was the one I was thinking of when reading Buri's initial post.  As much as I appreciate the ability to listen to recordings and broadcasts, I can't stand it when it is inadvertently shared with me.  Especially in a natural setting.  Radios should be banned from beaches and hikes!

From Bernice Stochek Friedson
Posted on August 8, 2009 at 7:49 PM

Did you know that if you play recordings of the songs of whales at high speed, they will sound like the songs of birds.  I did this some years ago, when 3-speed record players were still being used. Took an LP and played it at 78 rpm.  Amazing!!

From Karen Bird
Posted on August 10, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Your interesting post brings to mind a passage from a book I'm reading, "Why Birds Sing: A Journey into the Mystery of Birdsong," by David Rothenberg"

"It is a small step from playing a bird back his own song to playing him ours instead. In the 1920s, the British cellist Beatrice Harrison moved to the Surrey countryside and began practicing outdoors in spring. Nightingales began to join along with her, and she heard them matching her arpeggios with carefully timed trills. After getting them used to her they would burst into song whenever she began to play."

Rothenberg goes on to tell how this experience evolved into the world's first outdoor radio broadcast. Would love to hear that! (You can read about it here:

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine