Thursday 12 August 2021

A cathedral for birdsong

                   A cathedral for birdsong

If you walk through my park (yes, the Rhapsody in the Park that inspired the previous watercolour), you may chance upon a quiet pathway leading into an enclave of very tall trees. As you stand in their dappled shadows, it feels cool and quiet like a sanctuary, a cathedral, but as you look up, suddenly a delightful cacophony of birdsong bursts out above you, an invisible animated discussion on this intruder into their dwelling. Their tweets, trills, cheeps and chirrups inspire flashes and jabs of sound-colour here and there in my treetops. This is undoubtedly a magical space.       

     A cathedral for birdsong, watercolour 67 x 48 cm. 2021

I'm reminded of the French composer and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), who spent hours making tape-recordings of birdsong that might be incorporated into his music. He would be thrilled to stand here with his tape-recorder and no doubt argue with me about the colours we hear. How would he hear my carpet of blue/violet intermingled with dappled reds? His Catalogue d' Oiseaux for piano is, like bird song, full of abstract angular and unmelodic sounds. Messiaen had, like me and many others, synaesthesia - an intuitive reaction to music in terms of colour (or vice versa). Here's one shot from  my kinetic paintings performed in 2012 with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard to 
Cloches d’adieu – et un sourire. In memoriam Olivier Messiaen by composer Tristan Murail. Both musicians studied with Messiaen. My continuous images were painted live on projectors in response to the overlapping bell-like sounds from the piano.