This is a detail from David Blatherwick’s installation called “I Wish I Knew”, in St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto. Blatherwick videotaped five members of the church’s fine choir as they whistled transcriptions of real bird song, then mounted the results in various corners of the sacred space. (Click here to see video of the piece.) When you first enter the building, you think a small gaggle of songbirds has somehow got trapped in the church. And when you spot the little video monitors showing the singers, that impression doesn’t much change: We’re so used to humans who make human sounds that birdsong never quite seems to come from their lips, even when we see it coming forth. For centuries, European composers played with the idea of incorporating bird song into their music. (The clavecinistes of the French baroque were especially keen on the idea.) Blatherwick does without the music, and finds enough pleasure just in the birds. Saint Francis would have been proud.
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