Birds And A Composer Make Beautiful Music Together In California

playing violin
furtseff / Shutterstock

Berkeley, California composer Wendy Reid will perform on Saturday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. central time., and accompanying Reid will be Lulu, an African gray parrot, reports Date Book. The parrot will be perching in a custom-made Plexiglas cage during their performance in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. This concert will feature Lulu performing live, where she will respond to Reid’s music and urban sounds while other performers play off of the parrot’s taped patterns and voice.

The duo will be performing Reid’s “Ambient Bird 433” with musicians on all kinds of acoustic and electronic instruments. Reid calls the piece “a bird chaconne,” built on an ostinato that Lulu sang and Reid recorded. She notated little variations on the parrot’s vocabulary of “clucks, whooos and whistles” for three improvising ensembles that each play a third of the hour-long work, notes Date Book. Reid has been described as an experimentally minded artist. She also teaches composition at Mills College in California.

“It’s an ambient piece, where sections of silence are just as important as the instrumental playing.”

According to Reid, she named the piece “Ambient Bird 433” with John Cade in mind. She stated to reporters that the title refers to the revered avant-garde composer’s silent work titled “4’33.”

parrot
The African grey parrot’s ability to talk and mimic sounds makes this medium-sized parrot a captivating companion. Nuk2013 / Shutterstock

Pro Arts, a nonprofit in Oakland, is producing Reid and Lulu’s performance. Pro Arts is also showing off Reid’s graphic “Tree Pieces” scores in its gallery. For those who are unfamiliar with Reid, she is a violinist who notated violin harmonics that were in fact inspired by Lulu’s riffs. She will open the show in Oakland with Lulu, vocalist Aurora Josephson, Ron Heglin playing tuba and singing, and Brenda Hutchinson, who will be blowing a long metal tube like a didgeridoo.

Following up on Lulu and Reid will be the Mills Contemporary Performance Ensemble. The Mills Contemporary Performance Ensemble features electric bassist Rodrigo Barriga and saxophonist Matthew Wong.

During the final section of the Oakland show, the Frog Pond Ensemble will also be performing. The Frog Pond Ensemble is a composer’s group starring Nancy Backman playing shakuhachi flute, Maggi Payne on flute, recorder, and bird whistle, as well as Brain Reinbolt playing tweet boxes. These musicians will be improvising freely on the sounds of Lulu, based off of recordings sent to them in advance. The composer spoke to journalists about the ensemble’s plans for the Oakland performance.

“I’m not writing out those sounds. Each of the musicians will have to translate them on their own instruments.”