The Secret Life of Birds

flute and koto (1992)

Elizabeth Brown, flute; Masayo Ishigure, koto

duration: 13:45

program note

The Secret Life of Birds (1992) was commissioned by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs for Shirley Yamamoto, flute, and Yoko Awaya, koto. I love the different ways birds use their voices: the ‘song’, the ‘call’, the ‘note’. After slowing down some birdsong recordings, I realized they sing so fast and so high that they were in another dimension from the one we could hear and comprehend. Also, I had just discovered Morris Graves, an artist and mystic from the Pacific Northwest, who felt his paintings were a unification of vision and sound. I felt I could ‘hear’ his paintings. The flute writing is influenced by my shakuhachi training. The koto part uses a traditional tuning, though offset by a half step for the upper half of the strings.