Ensemble Offspring was all set to celebrate its 25th birthday with a triumphant national tour; now of course, with tours and concerts laid to waste by the coronavirus pandemic, they are obliged to be content with releasing a new album. Songbirds is a collection of new chamber works by nine Australian composers who have written specifically for Ensemble Offspring members Claire Edwardes (percussion), Jason Noble (clarinet/bass clarinet) and Lamorna Nightingale (flutes).

All the works here take inspiration in various ways from the endlessly fascinating songs of birds, a tradition which has a centuries-long history in Western classical music. Cuckoos and nightingales made appearances in works by Handel, Beethoven and many others; Olivier Messiaen’s epic work for solo piano, Catalogue d’Oiseaux , is based entirely on birdsong. For Songbirds , the focus is particularly on birds living and singing in Australia, including butcherbirds, blackbirds, lorikeets, lyrebirds and hummingbirds.

Two works by renowned birdsong researcher Hollis Taylor and experimentalist Jon Rose incorporate field recordings of the pied butcherbird from the Alice Springs environs (upon which Taylor is currently conducting an in-depth study) with antiphonal...

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