Back to the theme of the role of birds and birdsong in music, particularly my area of interest in 'folk' music. I know as a songwriter myself that, like other songwriters, I use birds as symbols and metaphors within songs. The most obvious example of this in my work is my song 'Little Robin':
In this, the robin, one of the few birds to be heard singing throughout the year and even in darkness, is both literal in that an actual bird is the subject (topic and addressee) of the song but also stands as a symbol of the absent lover, as well as almost an emotional 'objective correlative' for the abandoned 'I' of the song.
In writing this I was deliberately drawing inspiration from 'Blackbird' by Paul McCartney. Again, in that song, the bird is both literal and a symbol of something else (apparently racial tensions in the USA). And that symbolic use also seems to be quite a common category of the use of birds in song, and is primarily literary rather than musical. However, a cursory look in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Song suggests that the use of birds is not necessarily always as symbolic as in these examples, rather more a literal observation of a bird and its behaviour, or as added context or scene-setting for a ballad. I am starting to do some digging to see what other examples I can unearth of these uses and see if I can detect any particular trends or categories.
The other category I want to explore is examples of birdsong itself being used as inspiration in genres other than classical music, as the latter, as per my previous post on this subject, seems reasonably well-trodden ground. I'll be back...