[CT Birds] Reading 8
dennisvz at optonline.net
Wed Sep 7 07:49:50 EDT 2011
The Black-billed Cuckoo is distinctly a more musical bird, although
his song embraces but two well-defined tones only one of which is
The most distinct feature of this Cuckoo’s song is the rhythmic
recurrence of the rest. This is a thing as easily recognized by the
unmusical and the musical listener. When one hears a series of
rhythmically interrupted monotones coming up from the meadow, there
can be no doubt about the singer, it is the Black-bill! No other bird
sings exactly that way. . . . .
. . . . . It is apparent, than that however irregular the number of
notes, the principle of rhythmic pause remains irrefragable. So
perfectly timed is this pause, that upon setting the metronome to the
song the bird will be found singing with almost mechanical accuracy.
Mr Cheney writes: “Early one June morning . . . a bird was exercising
his voice in a manner that set me on the alert; it was the voice of
the Cuckoo but not the Cuckoo song. The instant I heard
‘Cuckoo’ . . . giving the interval of a fourth, I experienced a
thrill of satisfaction such as no similar discovery ha afforded.
Other ears, sharper than mine, had heard all, unknown to me; and
there was great rejoicing.— the Cuckoo was learning to sing!”
The European Cuckoo does that to perfection, [voices were set in two
tones] and he has been celebrated most thoroughly by the musician,
the poet and the Swiss manufacturer of clocks.
Long Years ago (1832) an Englishman, William Gardiner wrote: “The
plough-boy bids him welcome in the early morn. Borne by fragrant
gales, he leaves his distant home, for our sunny spots—the coppice
and the mead.Children mark his well-known song crying (Cuc-koo) “
On of the most beautiful poems in the English language is that by
John Logan, To the Cuckoo, written somewhere about 1775, and beginning:
“Hail beauteus stranger of the grove!
Thou messenger of spring!
Now heaven repairs thy rural seat,
And woods thy welcome sing.”
And he does not forget the natural imitativeness of the child for he
“The school-boy wandering through the wood
To pull the primrose gay,
Starts, the new voice of spring to hear,
And Imitates thy lay.”
Nor does the greatest of all musicians, the Immortal Beethoven fail
to recognize the perfection of simplicity in the Cuckoo’s Song, for
near the close of “The scene by the brook” in the Pastoral Symphony
he introduces the tow familiar notes along with the trill of the
Nightingale and the call of the European Quail thus: (He provides
some bars of notes)
But probably one of the best things that has ever been written with
the Cuckoo’s song for the theme is the nursery melody by Joseph S.
Moorat, and English musician, which appears on the opposite page.
Theodore Marzaials says of it: “If you wan a breath of fresh air
straight from the the heart of the hills, play over Cuckoo! Cherry-
tree . . . it’s as good as an hour on the moor-side”
“The finch, the sparrow, and the lark,
The plain-song cuckoo gray.”
In our American Black-billed Cuckoo, we have not only a musician
capable of giving up an interval of the third or fourth, like his
English cousin, but one who appreciates the value of measured silence
such as that which characterizes the opening bars of Beethoven’s
Fifth Symphony. We also possess a bird of more character too, for the
female builds her own nest and hatches her own eggs, which is more
than can be said of her foreign relative!
You don’t get stuff like that in David Sibley’s Guide!
More information about the CTBirds