A Murmuration of Starlings

A Murmuration of Starlings

A Murmuration of Starlings

for oboe and Bb clarinet

Program Notes

  1.  An Exaltation of Larks
  2. A Charm of Goldfinches
  3. A Murder of Crows
  4. A Murmuration of Starlings

One of the endearing quirks of the English language is the abundance of collective nouns for groups of animals.  Some of the better-known ones are, perhaps, a pride of lions, a pod of whales, a gaggle of geese and a covey of quails.  There are hundreds more besides those, however.  I have chosen four, all related to birds, as the inspiration for these four movements.

I should mention that a murmuration of starlings is not just the collective name for a flock, but is also the name given to the sort of aerial dance large groups of starlings engage in from time to time.  To use a definition from the National Public Radio website, “Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.”  These are extraordinarily beautiful and very mysterious.  Some videos of these were popular on the web around the time I conceived this piece, and that was the immediate inspiration.  The other movement titles and subjects were chosen later.

I have deliberately avoided attempting to imitate actual birdsong (what could I do that Messiaen hadn’t done already?), but instead have just written the music my fancy came up with when pondering these phrases.

A Murmuration of Starlings was written for my colleague at the University of Louisville School of Music, clarinetist Matthew Nelson, and his wife, Jayne Drummond.

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