Welcome to my weblog!
The place where I will regularly post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
Join my World of Music - and feel free to comment!
(As you see, the blog is in DInglish - Dutch International English - but comments in Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Frisian are welcome.)

Curious who I might be?
Look me up at my personal page.
Want to be notified when a new blog entry appears? Leave your email-address at the 'Follow by Email'-option below. Or become my Facebook-friend! (Or find me on LinkedIn and Twitter - @EvertBBoele.)
And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Schiermonnikoog, Selborne and the States

I was sitting at a breakfast table in the renowned Hotel Van der Werf (nicknamed Fawlty Towers by some, which is not completely fair as it is a great place to stay) and had a chat with an American colleague and his wife. Van der Werf is located at Schiermonnikoog, one of the islands in the Wadden Sea, renowned for its calm (no visting cars allowed, 900 regular inhabitants) and its birds. The colleague's wife was in a state of happiness and excitement - she had just seen a pheasant!

We-the-locals explained that pheasants on this island were rather common - you can feed some of them by hand if you want to. Of course we then talked about catching, cooking and eating them by hand, which led to anecdotes about shooting birds and other animals (allusions to a Spanish King and a Dutch Prince were made) and eventually to my recounting how the reverend Gilbert White who lived in the 18th century in Selborne (UK) and was a keen researcher of nature in its broadest sense saw a bird he had never seen before, a rare one, he supposed. He wanted to know what it was, so, he tells (my words) "After I had shot it and had a good look at it, it turned out to be a ..." (can't remember).

Now reverend White was not only curious about which birds visited England when and where (and whether or not swallows fly to the south in the winter or hide in caves), but also about nature's music. At some point he writes: `My musical friend, at whose house I am now visiting, has tried all the owls that are his near neighbours with a pitch-pipe set at concert pitch, and finds they all hoot in B-flat.'

Now that's a find. Even better is that his next sentence is: `He will examine the nightingales next spring.' And he keeps to his word, because later on in the book he comes back to the tuning of birds, stating that owls may also hoot in A-flat (common London pitch) as a friend communicated to him; another friend with a `nice ear' found out that owls in his village hooted in G-flat, F-sharp B-flat and A-flat (`Do these different notes proceed from different species, or only from various individuals?', White asks himself).

And this same friend comes back to the nightingales - `their notes are so short, and their transitions so rapid, that he cannot well ascertain their key. Perhaps in a cage, and in a room, their notes may be more distinguishable.' It took the invention of recording devices to allow Messiaen to capture bird's song - and the funny thing was that from the lady at my breakfast table I heard that the natural reserve near her home in America actually was used by Messiaen to record bird song.

And to top it all, that night I took an evening walk with three colleagues. Returning from a dark beach, and with the light of the light tower sweeping over our heads, we stopped on the road, at some point, to listen to the song of a nightingale.

Schiermonnikoog is the centre of the earth.

Gilbert White, The Natural History of Selborne, Oxford: Oxford University Press , 1982 (1789).

No comments:

Post a Comment