Sunday, April 29, 2007


WARBLER HEARS CONCRETE BLONDE


Out airing the sheets and pillow covers over the deck rail in the full sun of the cool morning, I was trading songs with an early warbler who was in splendid voice, broadcasting his aria from a downmountain tree out of sight behind the nearly full-leafed plum. Since he couldn't see me, I whistled his very own medley and he responded eagerly, even aggressively. I was being a territorial competitor.

Then after a few exchanges, for a bit of variation from polytonic monotony I decided to be an eccentric competitor, and began to whistle his song exactly, but with the last note off-key. He responded as before, but with what sounded to me like a bit of impatience, a sort of correctional emphasis on the last note.

It could be me, but I swear it sounded like he was either trying to correct me or to find out if I was an impostor. Maybe it's just my governmental conditioning, but his tone seemed challengingly inquisitive. This went on for several bars, until I was going in to get the futon and decided to throw discretion to the wind, see what happened.

So I whistled the entire pattern as before, but using a patch from the melody of Still in Hollywood by Concrete Blonde. There was a kind of shocked pause in the distance, then a discreet kind of birdy cough, followed by implacable silence. I stood there whistling and listening, but not a peep further.

Either the warbler doesn't like Concrete Blonde (which is ridiculous--he's in the music business) or he's never heard them before-- more likely the latter, living out here up on the mountain, playing only one song for who knows how many millennia. In any case it must have been quite a shock for that professional, heritor to generations of songcraft, to be trading riffs with a clearly amateur competitor only to have the tyro come back with a clip of great music the pro never heard of. Probably took his breath away.

Nature can be cruel sometimes. But if the warbler hangs around here for the summer, he's sure to pick up some more great sounds from my open windows. Then a hundred or a thousand years hence someone will hear a melodic birdsong, and say: Isn't that a song from Surfer Rosa?

Thus do cultures blend.

5 comments:

Annette said...

Thus Hollywood came to the Japanese mountain side... Fantastic!

Bob Brady said...

amazing, how apparently disparate things can merge...

Tabor said...

I wonder if this is how Bush and Bono start communication? Basic learning IS a generational process.

Winston said...

Bravo! Robert, this one is sheer genius...

Trace said...

Robert, I always smile and feel at peace when I visit your site--always!