A recent stay in hospital meant that I was cut off from all external sounds for 3 days. My ward had a view over the hospital lobby, but no sound coming through the thick double glazing, and certainly no traffic noise, no wind whistling, no rain battering the windows and no birdsong. I knew that Spring was being played outside, but its soundtrack wasn’t getting through to me. So, I turned to music to fill the gap and got to think about the many musical pieces written in reference to birds, from the sublime Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams to the ridiculous Birdie Song.

This is my own 51 minutes of ‘dawn chorus’, applying sometimes lateral thinking in my selection of tracks.

To listen to the playlist click on the Spotify link at the bottom of the page.

  1. Cuckoo song / Benjamin Britten / Cosmo Sheldrake
    Discover more about Cosmo Sheldrake and his artistic endeavours and relatives in this Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/15/cosmo-sheldrake-the-power-of-birdsong-aoe
  2. The Swan (Carnival of the animals) / Camille Saint Saens / Isata Kanneh-Mason, Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Sheku Kanneh-Mason. This is from the debut album of the Kanneh-Mason family http://www.kannehmasons.com/home-2/
  3. Pilentzee Pee / Bulgarian State Television Female Choir. The title is translated as ‘a birdie is singing”.
  4. Every Songbird Says / Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop. This is a beautiful duo, which I had the chance to go and see in concert a few years back. Both talented individual singers in their own right, their collaboration creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Jesca Hoop is also an adopted Mancunian.
  5. Nightingale / Norah Jones. From her seminal debut album ‘Come away with me’.
  6. The Bird That Winds the Spring / Lau. I have already admitted in the past of being a sucker for clapping in music, so here’s a track to indulge my addiction.
  7. Sparrow / Simon & Garfunkel.
  8. Blackbird / The Beatles.
  9. Swallow Song / Vashti Bunyan. More about the musical itinerary of Vashti Bunyan at https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/mar/18/folk-star-vashti-bunyan-my-voice-made-me-think-of-sorrow-i-didnt-even-sing-to-my-children
  10. Albatross / Fleetwood Mac.
  11. Feather / Ishmael Ensemble.
  12. Flugufrelsarinn / Sigur Rós. Well, no idea really what this song is about, but I am sure Sigur Rós won’t mind me pretending there’s a link in there somewhere with birds. They happily admit that they make up their own non-sensical lyrics and language, adding the human voice like another instrument to the music. The whole track makes me think of a murmuration.

Bonus track:
Flugufrelsarinn / Kronos Quartet Version / Sigur Rós