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This week, David Rothenberg and Olivia Chaney will perform at the BirdLife100 World Congress, sharing the beauty of birdsong with members of the BirdLife Partnership. By listening to the Birdsong Project, you can celebrate and enjoy the beauty of birdsong from wherever you are in the world.

David Rothenberg has written and performed on the relationship between humanity and nature for many years. He is the author of Why Birds Sing, on making music with birds. Classically-trained singer and pianist Olivia Chaney graduated from UK’s Royal Academy of Music, before teaching herself guitar, Indian harmonium and carving out her own sound.

Their performance was made possible thanks our American Partner Audubon and the Birdsong Project. ‘What’s that?’ you say, well here’s their story!

The Birdsong Project: For the Birds

Heightened awareness of nature during the difficult times of the pandemic inspired music supervisor Randall Poster to launch The Birdsong Project, an ambitious creative collaboration that brings together hundreds of artists and others to raise funds for bird conservation.

As COVID continues to ravage the planet and we struggle to process the worst impacts it has wrought on society, we are also able to see glimmers of hope.

In the early days, when quarantines, isolation and working from home were the norm, there was a sense that nature and wildlife seemed more ‘present’. With human economic activity diminished, the planet’s natural denizens appeared to reassert themselves, and in no group was this more obvious than it was with birds.

Grammy award-winning New York-based music supervisor Randall Poster said: “While in quarantine, I became much more aware of the birds and the bird song around me. I spent a lot of time listening to the birds singing. I was not alone. It was something that we began to talk about. The beauty of birds, the joy and mysteries of bird song. Given that the situation in the fall of 2020 was sad, strange and frightening – as plagues tend to be – this fascination with the birds was a magical distraction. Thank God for the birds.”

“Talking to friends, I came to better understand the profound threat to birdlife. Disappearing habitats, climate change and some broadly inhospitable activities have decimated bird populations, pushing hundreds of species to the brink of extinction.”

“And so I was encouraged to reach out to my friends in the creative community with the notion that if artists created pieces of music inspired by bird song, we could draw attention to a crisis by celebrating its beauty.”

Birds have inspired humans for millennia and during the pandemic they moved Poster to orchestrate something unique. With his flock of musical friends, celebrated artists like Elvis Costello and YoYo Ma, and more than 200 others including graphic artists, poets and actors, he has produced a 242-track set of albums called For the Birds. All proceeds from this entirely benevolent effort will go to Audubon (BirdLife Partner in the US).

Outer box cover art for “For The Birds, The Birdsong Project”, Audubon’s Warbler
Different artists produced unique artwork for the 20 LP covers. Cover art by Brian Calvin
Cover art by Barrie Goshko

Poster wants to support Audubon’s work – and BirdLife’s – as well as other concerned conservation-oriented organisations like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and BirdLife’s other American Partner, American Bird Conservancy. Poster and his team are still working with BirdLife and others to explore exactly how they will do so.

With five instalments ahead to release the entire set of 242 pieces, both on collector-edition vinyls and via digital streaming, the project is sure to gain increasing interest and attention for birds and their importance to the greater web of nature we call biodiversity, so deeply in crisis today. Poster told The Guardian: “We are birds. Like them, we’re fragile and we’re threatened.”

To further begin to build the globally concerned community he plans, Poster will be attending the BirdLife100 Gala and World Congress in London on 15 September, along with several surprise musical acts from The Birdsong Project who will perform.

The Audubon Society said: “The Birdsong Project is a historic and unprecedented outpouring of creativity by more than 220 music artists, actors, literary figures and visual artists, all coming together to celebrate the joy birds bring to our lives and elevate the message they have for us about the environmental threats we all face. Audubon is delighted to be a beneficiary of The Birdsong Project. Original music, artwork and poetry performances will be available on digital streaming platforms and a limited-edition LP box set. All proceeds will benefit Audubon’s mission to protect birds and the places they need.”

Click here to listen to the Birdsong Project.
Header image: Randall Poster in his New York City studio © Luke Franke/Audubon

We want to graciously acknowledge the generous support of our American partner Audubon and their CEO, Dr. Elizabeth Gray for their support and contribution to our 100th Anniversary event.

Cover art by Dan Attoe
Cover art by Audun Lund Alvestad

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