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the pitch-pipe faithfully recorded inter- usually those with only four phrases, mediate quarter or eighth tones that which they uttered with such beauty of is, a trifle sharp or flat. there was no modulation, and such deliberate excelway of representing them. I experi- lence, as to suggest the thought expressed mented for a while with various devices, by Thoreau: “He confines himself to hoping that I might discover some way his few notes, in which he is unrivaled, to record the actual sounds, but I finally as if his kind had learned this and no abandoned the problem as practically in more anciently." soluble. As the study of the birds' song These phrases, whether in the eastern forms progressed I came, however, to or western parts of the wood thrush console myself for the lack of exactitude range, were all very much alike. I have by the discovery that thrushes tended not recorded over twenty different forms, steadily to approximate the intervals of yet only once did I hear precisely the the human scale. They were rarely just same set used by two birds. In this case on the key, but they were generally close they were near neighbors along the river to it, never failing to suggest the conven bank, father and son, perhaps, I thought. tional pitch.
All the other sets of phrases which I reHaving determined, then, while recog- corded were individual and unmistaknizing the imperfections of my method able, often coinciding in two phrases or of recording, to use it as a fairly satis- three, only to differ sharply in one or factory one, I amassed a great number two others. of thrush song-forms, and from these I Here is a typical example of a thrush derived the following facts, noted from song with four phrases. Of course it wood thrushes in Ohio, Massachusetts, does not pretend to give the actual sounds, and Quebec. From the beginning, I was or to enable one unfamiliar with the bird greatly surprised to discover how few to reproduce the song, for the timbre, the really distinct phrases the wood thrushes unique, individual wood thrush voice, is used. Very many had no more than not to be hinted at by such means. All three, the great majority used but four, it does is to symbolize roughly the tones and only a few had as many as five or of the musical scale, to which the thrush six. The finest singers I heard were approximated.
It will be seen that these four phrases tinkling or buzzing, and either much were assignable without undue stretch- higher or much lower than the loud ones ing of the truth to the key of G natural. preceding.
preceding. The sotto voce part of the Each began with two or three softly ut song was inaudible except at close range, tered grace notes, continued with three or but on a few occasions I heard it develmore loud tones, and concluded with one oped into a whisper song decidedly unlike or more soft staccato notes, sometimes the well-known flute notes.
It will also be observed that these four they consisted of three themes only, or phrases seemed to form part of a broken as many as six or seven, they always had melody. The first was introductory in one or more phrases corresponding in character, uttered with the bird's richest musical character to those shown above, tones, round and liquid, with an organ and the vocal quality was adjusted after tremolo or pulsation on the last note quite the same manner. The introductory unmatched for vibrant beauty by any phrases were always rich, full, and round, other bird of the region. The next the continuing ones were less steady in phrases seemed to continue the musical tone, more brilliant, but liable to contain progress, the second being a cadence squeaky notes, and the final one was into the key of D, the third an arpeggio generally soft and reedy. The thrushes leading back into G again ; and each of did not always hold so clearly to the key these was sharper and more metallic in as did the “ravine” wood thrush, for quality than the first one, the third being now and then one would introduce acciespecially rapid and brilliant, equal in dental notes, and occasionally one would dexterity to any of the brown thrasher's sing persistently off the pitch ; but the roulades, and far finer in tone. The tendency was to adhere to some one last phrase, which was thin and reedy, key. seemed to be a sort of conclusion to the Here are some other examples, beginsong.
ning with a thrush who, during months With much the same words the songs of observation, never used more than of all the other forty odd wood thrushes three phrases. For convenience we will I studied might be described; for whether call him
THE RIVERBANK WOOD THRUSH.
In this simplest of songs the same ele Here is another singer, with four ments may be seen as in the one pre phrases, who signalized himself by introviously recorded : introductory, suspend- ducing flats, thereby making a modulaing, and final.
tion into the minor of his original key.
Following are the songs of two per troduced a phrase in an entirely unrelatformers, each with five phrases, one of ed key, a daring performance for one of whom, the “pasture” wood thrush, in- his kind.
to record of the edfor the lo
But what of the order in which these thrushes, while singing with free choice, thrushes sang? That problem proved tended to use their themes so as to prorelatively simple, once the phrase-forms duce as much variety as possible without had been identified, for the slowness and violating the musical character of the precision of the thrushes made it easy phrases themselves. Further, each one to record long series. I collected many had a favorite order, or set of orders, such, running into the hundreds for some from which he would vary, but to which birds, taken at various times and under he would return unfailingly. Here, for all sorts of conditions; and from a study instance, is the phrase sequence of a of these it appeared that the wood thrush noticeable for his regularity.
THE SWAMP WOOD THRUSH. ppp
This “swamp” thrush had no low in- above were not quite so regular, but each troductory phrase, and his whole song had his favorite sequence. was rather higher pitched than usual; The “ravine” thrush sang 1,2,3; 1,2,4, and this, together with his sharp ring- much like the “swamp" thrush. The ing utterance, made his song sequence a “pool" thrush used his four phrases a striking one. Now and then he would little more freely, seeming to begin each interject a phrase out of place, but he new series with the first phrase, but using would immediately return to his alterna- the others in varied combinations, as foltion, — 1,2,3; 1,2,4; 1,2,3 ; 1,2,4. The lows: 1,2,4,3;1,4,2; 1,4,2; 1,2,3 ; 1,2,3 ; other thrushes whose songs are shown 1,2,3,4.
The "riverbank” thrush, with only and tinkling in timbre, apparently at the three phrases, used them after the follow other end of the gamut from its predeing manner: 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,3,2; 1,3,2; 1,3,2,3.
р The “ roadway” thrush used his five phrases in varying orders, always seeming to lead off with the low phrase, but using his fifth or conclusion phrase very little, Another pause, and there was heard a as follows: 1,2,4,3,4; 1,2,4,3; 1,2,4,3,4; sudden modulation into the key of the 1,2,3,4,3; 1,2; 1,4,2;1,4,2,3,2; 1,2,3,4,5. dominant, in a ringing, brilliant, rather The
pasture ” thrush used his five reedy voice. phrases more equally, but seemed to
PP have certain favorite orders, as follows:
ppp 1,2,3,4;1,5,2,3,4; 1,4;1,2,3,4;1,5,2,3,4. Examples might be furnished of an indefinite number of these song orders. A thrush would often sing apparently at After that came the low rich phrase, then random for a moment, but soon one of the second, and then, in place of the third the familiar sequences would reappear, one, a new figure in a clear mellow flute the one thing never done by thrushes in tone in the middle of the bird's register, full song being to repeat the same phrase the little tinkling grace notes after it twice in succession.
seeming to shoot up like sparks. It was contrast which lent its great charm to the wood thrush song as com
рррз pared with the far more elaborate strains of sparrows or bobolinks, - contrast of tone and timbre as well as in the succession of phrases. Only the catbird Then would come the first again, then and brown thrasher offered anything the third, and so on, the four phrases similar, and their delivery was so jerky being employed so as to produce continand their tone quality at best so inferior ual variety and contrast. that in emotional effect the simpler wood Is there any apparent reason for the thrush far surpassed.
order relations which the birds seemed Take the song of a fine singer, such to prefer? Yes and no. The singers as the “lagoon" thrush, neighbor of the did not hesitate to leave progressions un“ riverbank” and “pool ” thrushes, but finished, and did not feel bound to abstain distinctly superior. With deliberation he
from any particular successions, but still uttered a sudden clear, round, vibratory they seemed to prefer to use their phrases phrase, the little staccato notes following in a way comporting with their charac“like the jingling of steel,” as Thoreau ter. They did not sing them at random, says.
nor did they use the conclusion phrase to # PPP begin combinations; but seemed, as the
above examples have shown, to prefer ppp
such successions and variations as an orchestral
composer would employ. It was
this apparent deliberate choice which Then followed a pause, not indicated in marked off the wood thrush from such the foregoing notations, but always to be singers as the bobolinks, the orioles, the understood between any two wood thrush sparrows, or finches, which repeated like phrases, and after it another phrase, thin an involuntary expression of joy the same
melody the day through. The wood be similar to the foregoing, and each thrush with his few figures used them, would generally begin on a different note, and them only, not inventing recklessly, which, as it was deliberate, loud, and penbut employing his well-learned themes etrating, was not difficult to determine with apparent purpose.
with the pitch-pipe. The rapid figures,
however, were altogether too lively to When I turned from the wood thrush be analyzed in this way, and had to be to study the song of his smaller cousin, guessed at from their apparent intervals. the hermit thrush, I found a far harder It was my impression, not ventured as task confronting me. Hermit thrushes an unqualified statement, that the songsang with untiring persistence, some forms adhered rather closely to the matimes for an hour or more at a stretch, jor or minor scale ; at all events, after lisand at all times of the day, but they tening to scores of birds and taking voluwere generally much shyer than the wood minous notes upon two or three singers, thrushes, harder to approach, and more that was the way it appeared. Of course restless, often changing from tree to tree the birds sang off the pitch with freedom, while in song. Then, too, they were just as did the wood thrushes ; but neverseldom at all gregarious, being found at theless, the impression produced was of considerable distances one from another, an approximation to the conventional whereas wood thrushes seemed to prefer scale. to nest in little colonies ; so I had to Assuming that such was the case, it tramp through wide stretches of New followed that each phrase was in a key England and Canadian pastures and of its own, which was determined genforests, and row many miles along the erally by the opening note; and from a shores of Canadian lakes, in order to mass of observations the fact soon aplearn to know even a few of these singers peared that the opening notes of these very well. Only on very rare occasions phrases formed part of a definite scale. did I succeed in taking notes from a few A certain bird, for instance, as in the yards; as a rule, my studies were neces- case to be noted below, had nine phrases, sarily carried on at a respectful distance and these were always in the following from the invisible performers, as they keys: perched in the thick green of hemlocks or
bo be + spruces, or among the foliage of great sugar maples.
Each thrush, it appeared, had from eight to eleven separate phrases, and Others were in sharps, but, however these, unlike the figures of the wood arranged, these opening notes always thrush, were in several different keys, formed some scale. No doubt the acand were all approximately of the same tual sounds did not conform entirely; form. This typical hermit thrush theme some were a shade too low, others too consisted of a long opening note, followed high, but the pitch-pipe never failed to reby two or more groups of rapid notes cord a series surprisingly close to some higher on the scale, as in the following conventional scale. This meant that all example: –
of the hermit thrush utterances were
related in a much more elaborate manv 8 pp
ner than were any of the wood thrush phrases. In some cases it followed that the bird sang in just those keys marked
by the opening notes. Here is an ex. Each of the eight or more phrases would ample of this sort: