Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Amazing Prescience of Ages Past

"You may set it down as a truth which admits of few exceptions, that those who ask your opinion really want your praise, and will be contented with nothing else."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Birds as composers

As I was shovelling earth in my garden today I listened, as I always do, to the Brandenburg playing all around me. Two Blackbirds were doing a double solo spot worthy of JSB in its rhythmic energy and lightning repartee. A squeaky Dunnock tried to sing his little ditty at the same time, while in the backgound the Great Tits intoned their two-note chorale - "tea-cher, tea-cher''. At odd moments the cuckoo droned in the distance with that incredibly irritating song which is so evocative of Spring.

What struck me, amidst this polyphonic free-for all, was that Blackbird One was actually singing the William Tell Overture. Not the galloping bit, the spacious horn theme at the opening. Now, I just wonder if that yodelling phrase was passed down through generations of Blackbirds from a bird living outside Rossini's window - you never know. He would never have told. I wouldn't.