The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Explore how modern and contemporary piano music uses bird songs | August 16, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Kyle Johnson (below, in a photo by Peter Jakubowski), a talented pianist who is studying at the UW-Madison and who has contributed reviews to this blog, sends the following information:

Hi all,

You’re receiving this email because you collaborated with me on my ongoing Messiaen podcast production, helped me in a small way, are on my doctoral committee, or are simply someone whom I’ve told about the project in recent weeks.

I’ve great news: Edge Effects, a magazine out of the Center for Culture, History and Environment (within UW’s Nelson Institute) picked up knowledge of the project and decided to feature it!

The feature is a full-length preview episode of the podcast series, specifically created for Edge Effects. That episode is currently available for streaming or download HERE.

I hope everyone can get a chance to listen to it and enter the world of birdsong (below), contemporary piano repertoire, composition, ornithology and performing. (You can hear Messiaen’s use of birdsong in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Podcasting, itself, is a great, relatively new medium for education, storytelling, and informing — all attributes I hope you’ll take away after hearing it.

Happy listening,


Kyle D. Johnson, Mead Witter School of Music

Dissertator, Doctor of Musical Arts


  1. Messiaen and Rautavaara were the first composers to come to my mind. Will listen to the podcast, interesting stuff!


    Comment by Konsgaard — August 18, 2017 @ 7:56 am

  2. In his Cantus Arctica, Rautavaara makes extensive use of the sound of migrating birds arriving in the spring.


    Comment by slfiore — August 16, 2017 @ 7:59 am

  3. Many famous composers have used bird songs and sounds in their music.

    Just to mention two:
    1) Jean Sibelius (in his 5th Symphony and also in the Swan of Tuonela);
    2) Alan Hovhaness (in many compositions).

    Interesting too that Hovhaness was an admirer of Sibelius and traveled to meet him.


    Comment by FFlambeau — August 16, 2017 @ 4:48 am

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