September 29, 2011

Le Chant Du Rossignol

Filed under: music — stefan @ 14:09

I was recently talking with friends (with whom I’m rehearsing some renaissance music) about how birdsong has been represented / imitated musically throughout history. One of the most beautiful birdsong I have experienced myself is nightingales singing in crisp air, right after some good rainfall.

Youtube has some nice nightingale recording, for all those who can’t experience this first-hand.

Among the many occurrences in musical compositions, this excerpt from “Le Chant Du Rossignol” by Igor Stravinsky strikes me as particularly resembling, though that may just be my own musical / aesthetic bias showing through. (Just listen carefully to the beginning of this excerpt and compare that to the very beginning of the nightingale recording above. Isn’t that amazing ?)

There are many others, such as Olivier Messiaen’s “Chants D’Oiseau”, or even his “Quatuor pour la fin du temps”. And of course, there are many older ones, too, such as Janequin’s “Le chant des oiseaux”, which appears a little affected in comparison.

It might be interesting to build a themed concert out of this and similar material.

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  1. I have a little book entitled “Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music”, by F. Schuyler Mathews, dated 1921 (reprint from 1904), which you might find entertaining — it’s very much idiosyncratic rather than very accurate representations, but one thing it has is musical-note transcriptions of the songs of a great many birds. Perhaps you could find a copy by inter-library loan, if I don’t think to show you next time I see you?

    Sadly, for some reason it doesn’t seem to have a nightingale song, aside from mentioning a section of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.

    Comment by Brooks — September 29, 2011 @ 19:25 | Reply

    • Interesting, I’ll look for it. Speaking of idiosyncrasies, this reminds me of the work of a contemporary Québec guitarist – René Lussier, who quite famously (at least hear in Québec) recorded people on the street (and elsewhere) and then overdubbed the spoken (and in hindsight, one might add sung !) text with his own arrangements. Quite entertaining !
      His work is called “Le Trésor De La Langue” (, e.g., and it was widely recognized and awarded.

      Comment by stefan — September 29, 2011 @ 19:41 | Reply

  2. (For what it’s worth, it looks like Amazon has a reprint:

    Comment by Brooks — September 29, 2011 @ 19:37 | Reply

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