By Paul Roberts
Special to The PREVIEW
Join musician and music therapist Paul Roberts for a free hand-drumming class at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at noon.
The class offers a welcoming environment that encourages fun, creativity, playfulness and connecting with others. Drums are provided for those who do not have one. Designed as an opportunity for people of all ages to unleash their creativity, the drumming class is a family-friendly activity open to all ages. No previous experience is necessary.
The Voyager Golden Records are two phonograph records aboard both Voyager spacecraft that were launched in 1977. Containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, the records are inscribed with the words “To the makers of music — all worlds, all times.” They include music by famous composers such as J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, along with songs of birds and whales — a fascinating juxtaposition of music by humans, songs of animals and sounds of nature.
With similar tone, timbre, rhythm and structure, the songs of birds and whales have much in common with human music.
The late Luis Baptista, one of the world’s leading experts on bird song, drew fascinating parallels between bird song and human music. In a 2000 interview in the New York Times, he was asked, “What are the parallels between human and bird music?”
Baptista replied: “I know of birds who have voices with tonal qualities that sound like real instruments. The strawberry finch has beautiful single notes that come down the scale and that sound just like a flute. There is another bird, the diamond fire tail from Australia, whose voice sounds like some kind of woodwind, an oboe perhaps. Then, in Costa Rica, I’ve encountered a wonderful night bird and it sings four notes coming down the scale, and the quality of its voice is just like a bassoon. Then, if you look at pitch, scholars have found that certain birds use the same musical scales of human cultures. One scholar has found that the hermit thrush actually sings in the pentatonic scale used in Far Eastern music. One of the most incredible cases is the canyon wren, who sings in the chromatic scale, and his song reminds me of the introduction and finale of Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary Etude.’”
“Songs of the Humpback Whale” has been enchanting people since the album’s release in 1970. The bestselling nature recording of all time, this album of ethereal whale songs was inducted into the National Recording Registry as one of the significant recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically important. “Songs of the Humpback Whale” represented the first time most people in the world heard whale songs, although tribes such as the Tlingit and Inuit have been hearing them through the hulls of their boats since ancient times.
It’s not surprising that people who live close to nature perceive a wider range of sounds than those living in cities. Outside my house, I hear a symphony of birds who use the same combinations of notes and rhythmic variations that I do. Tuning into their music helps me come into self-attunement with the music I am trying to create. In this way, I feel there is an intermingling, an overlapping of bird music with my own musical aesthetic. Do they like the music they hear me playing? I like to think so, but a doe and her two fawns who are frequently close by, and who stare at me for a long time when I play, are easier to read. It’s inspiring to live in a soundscape where natural rhythmic and melodic pulsations are everywhere.
For more information about the Pagosa hand-drumming class, call 731-3117. The Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave.
By Paul Roberts