To the makers of music (2020)

This sound-piece draws from three sources of sound: the call of extinct birds, the sound of extinct human languages, and the music recorded in the Golden Record in the Voyager spacecrafts.

The four birdsongs used in this piece are either extinct—recently enough that we have recordings of their songs—or in an uncertain state. These four birds are:

  • Kaua’i O’o (moho braccatus—Hawaii, USA)
  • Cozumel thrasher (toxostoma guttatum—Cozumel Island, Mexico)
  • Spix’s macaw (cyanopsitta spixii—Brazil)
  • Slender-billed curlew (numenius tenuirostris—Western Siberia, Russia).

Over time, the piece grew into a sort of sound-essay about the loss of these birdsongs itself—and how this connects to the future of people. I thus included another kind of song—human music, as recorded in the Golden Record. These samples are taken from:

  • the Cavatina from Beethoven’s 13th string quartet
  • “Puspawarna”, a Javanese gamelan piece
  • “Jaat Kahan Ho”, a Hindustani khyal song
  • West African percussion

These pieces are of such beauty that, by including them in the Record, they were chosen to represent the best of humanity to any sapient life who finds it.

Yet the music is also a warning, for it is also heard together recordings of three human languages, none of which possess any more speakers with native fluency. The musical samples from the Record represent the classical high art of their cultures. Human speech, on the other hand, is the sound of everyday life—for which the loss of language is part of a slow, painful uprooting.

Near the end, these three elements are all brought together, almost as if about to converse with one another—but they fall short of achieving this counterpoint. Neither bird- nor human song are again heard. The ending is a retrospective on the rest of the piece. It is a reflection on what causes the erosion of art and culture and the destruction of the environment—and by extension, the people living there.