Digital Art Wonderings

The Blackbird Sings

This is a little video to accompany the sound recording I made today of our local blackbird singing for the first time this year. Always a wonderful moment for me, sacred even.

This recording was made with my phone using a “Record Voice” App at about 16.00pm as sunset grew closer. The first songs of the season always seem to me to be a bit tentative, the singer well concealed in an evergreen tree, whereas in the spring or summer he would be singing from a more prominent vantage point, proclaiming his song for all to hear and see.

This next video I recorded on 2nd April 2013 in the evening at my mother’s house. I recorded the sound on a small Panasonic palm sized video recorder, then I took the audio and sympathetically enhanced it, volume, noise reduction, and recorded the playback in spectrogram form. Purely for my own interest so it is rather rough. I was trying to identify a signature phrase in the blackbird’s song which I only heard in this locality.

Over time I began to notice a particular “phrase” within the song of one blackbird who liked to perch and sing on nearby chimneys, trees and bushes. At that time I never heard another blackbird use that exact phrase and I listened for it wherever I travelled. I’ve captured in in this recording, recorded at my Ma’s house in spring 2009. You can hear the phrase at 0.20 and 0.27 seconds. and again at 0.57 seconds and finally at 1.32 seconds.
I don’t know what the correct terminology is for the singing patterns of birds and blackbirds in particular. They have a wide repertoire of notes, melodies, phrases that often come in a loose form of “Intro, middle passage, and final flourish”, these are all the terms I use to help me recognise individuals. The gaps in-between each song are fascinating too, they last about the same time as the previous song took to sing. I call this the listening phase. I believe the blackbird is listening out for any other blackbirds, either singing in their own territories or even replying to his song.
In most of these recording I have used a small Panasonic video recorder to record the song not the actual video of the bird singing. Usually the light was too low or the bird hidden or too far away for that. I used both Cool Edit Pro, which has now evolved into Adobe Audition and Audacity which is a free, open source, cross-platform audio software. I am not at all accomplished in either so my attempts at noise cancellation and editing are rather clumsy but they have helped me appreciate this talented minstrel.

I created this next video in 2014 in an experiment playing with the sounds of birds slowed down to show the incredible complexity of birdsong, mostly the blackbird. I wanted to create an imaginative soundscape to offer an alternative world of sound to that which we are accustomed using some of my photographs as a visual companion.

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