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xMimicry of human music - RFI

Subject: xMimicry of human music - RFI
From: Wild Sanctuary <>
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2003 12:44:13 -0700
There's also a new group, begun by Dr. Patricia Gray, called BioMusic It covers all these issues and is actively 
persuing studies and enquiry into the subject. I believe that they 
will be soon affiliated with the University of North Carolina 
(Greensboro) and Dr. Don Hodges, Head of the Music Department.


>There are not many examples of wild birds in nature mimicking human music.
>Our archive has an example of a wild Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) that
>rendered a perfect arpeggio, but without proof as to whether it was mimicry
>or coincidence.
>But cagebirds have been tutored by humans to produce music.  The best
>examples I know of were German folk-song singing Bullfinches (Pyrrhula
>pyrrhula) studied and recorded by Jurgen Nicolai:
>Nicolai, J. (1959). "Familientradition in der Gesangcentwicklung des
>Grimpels (Pyrrhula pyrrhula L.)." J Ornithol 100: 39-46.
>Nicolai, J. (1991). "Folksong singing Bullfinches." unpublished: 7.
>Copies of the recordings are in our archive and are truly astonishing. The
>birds accurately reproduced full folk songs and if interrupted, would
>continue the song from the start of the full phrase, as if they shared the
>human sense of musical 'melody'. You will be able to hear and read about
>these in the forthcoming book and CD 'Nature's Music' edited by Hans
>Slabbekoorn and Peter Marler (pub. Academic Press).  I don't have a
>publication date but it's in press right now.
>Richard Ranft                             
>Curator, Wildlife Section,     
>The British Library Sound Archive,              
>96 Euston Road,                      
>London NWI 2DB, UK.
>voice: +44 (0)20-7412-7402/3
>fax:   +44 (0)20-7412-7441
>WWW pages with fully-searchable on-line catalogue at:
>>  Syd Curtis wrote:
>>  >A non-recordist friend recently asked me in a letter whether
>>  birds ever
>>  >imitated human music and whether composers ever copied
>>  bird-song.  The
>>  >latter I can answer at length, (having corresponded with
>>  Olivier Messiaen
>>  >when h ewas alive), but not the first.
>>  >
>>  >There is a story of a lyrebird chick raised in captivity and
>>  learning to
>>  >sing by copying flute music.  He was later released and his
>>  "flute" songs
>>  >were taken up by that lyrebird population.  That's the
>>  story.  It's been
>>  >disputed.  I think it probably did happen.
>>  >
>>  >But somewhere in the distant past, I'm sure I read of
>>  something similar
>>  >happening in Europe.  A Blackbird, maybe.  And I think it
>>  was documented in
>>  >some scientific journal.  Can anyone help me please, with a
>>  reference?
>>  >
>>  >TIA
>>  >
>>  >Syd Curtis in Australia
>Now exhibiting at the British Library Galleries:
>Painted Labyrinth : the world of the Lindisfarne Gospels
>Until 28 September 2003.  Admission Free.
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Wild Sanctuary, Inc.
P. O. Box 536
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
707-996-6677 tel
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