Album Reviews: Music on the Wing


This week I’m posting less of a music review, and more of a suggestion for a couple of recordings I found clever, enjoyable, and even educational.  Each is a compilation of works by various artists that draw inspiration from a flying animal.  In one case, bats, and in the other, birds:

Album: Field Works, by Ultrasonic
Release Date: May 1, 2020
Label: Temporary Residence

Stuart Hyatt returns with another sonic wonder in the Field Works series, bringing the listener into truly uncharted acoustic territory. Ultrasonic is perhaps the first-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material. For this special album, Hyatt has assembled an extraordinary group of contributors: Eluvium, Christina Vantzou, Sarah Davachi, Ben Lukas Boysen, Machinefabriek, Mary Lattimore, Felicia Atkinson, Noveller, Chihei Hatakeyama, John Also Bennett, Kelly Moran, Taylor Deupree, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Julien Marchal, and Player Piano. Ultrasonic is part of a broader storytelling project about the federally endangered Indiana bat. Generously funded by the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute and the National Geographic Society, each album contains an official printed booklet of The Endangered Species Act of 1973.

AlbumA Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Label: Shika Shika

An album of music inspired by the song of endangered birds with 100% of the profits going towards organisations working to protect them.

“A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean” is the second Volume in the series following on from “A Guide to the Birdsong of South America”, originally released on Robin’s label Rhythm and Roots. Volume I raised nearly 15,000 USD for two birding organisations and featured artists like Nicola Cruz, Dengue Dengue Dengue and Chancha Via Circuito.

For this second edition we have shifted focus north of the equator and to the vulnerability of bird species like the Momoto Carenado (Nicaragua), Ferminia (Cuba) and the Jamaican Blackbird (Jamaica), birds who have dwindled in numbers as a result of the environmental repercussions of climate change, deforestation and trapping for the pet trade.

For the album we chose 10 endangered or threatened bird species and challenged 10 of our favourite producers or musicians from the region. Working with the Xeno Canto birdsong community and the Macaulay Library, we sourced a recording of each bird’s song. Each artist was then asked to create an original piece of music inspired by the bird and its song.

In line with out vision at Shika Shika the curation of artists is specifically geared towards those bridging connections between traditional music and modernity, or between organic and electronic sounds. There are contributions from artists in eight different countries, ranging from Jamaica’s organic dancehall trio Equiknoxx, to Dj Jigüe, one of the leaders of Cuba’s burgeoning electronic scene. Belize’s critically renowned Garifuna Collective have been bringing the unique Garifuna culture and language to a global audience for many years, while Tamara Montenegro has been one of the leaders of Nicaragua’s electronic music scene for the past decade.

The project would not have been possible without the support of an incredible Kickstarter community, helping us raise £12,599 in August 2019.

Once the costs of production have been covered, all of the proceeds from this album will be donated to Birds Caribbean, La Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica and Fundacion TXORI in Mexico. All profits from the sales of the record, music streaming, poster and t-shirt will be shared between these organisations who focus on engaging local communities to help improve and grow the bird tourism sector, create awareness of vulnerable birds with young people and crucially, provide rescue, rehabilitation and breeding programmes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlCirOY-zs8

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2


The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees.  Science!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

Book Review: The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle


AuthorMerlin Tuttle
TitleThe Secret Lives of Bats 
Publication InfoHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Summary/Review:

I remember one time as a child playing lawn darts at dusk in my neighbors’ yard.  I lost sight of the dart and then noticed that it seemed to be flying up, only to realize that it was actually a bat.  My friend and I ran screaming indoors, not realizing that game we were playing was probably more dangerous than our neighborhood bats.  Over time, I grew to admire bats partly for their contributions to a healthy ecosystem, but mostly for being marvelous creatures.  In this wonderful memoir, Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, details his lifelong love of the flying mammals and constantly running up against the fear and hatred of bats in his fellow humans.  As a child, Tuttle crawled through local caves to tag migrating bats, his descriptions giving me vicarious claustrophobia.  All through the book Tuttle extols the virtues of bats, from consuming tons of pestilent insects to spreading the seeds of plants, and even affecting the mating rituals of frogs.  In addition to traveling the world to study bats, Tuttle taught himself how to photograph the animals, inventing tricks of the trade to create compelling photographs published in National Geographic, or elsewhere.  If you love bats, you’ll love this book, and if you fear bats, well this book may change your mind.

Rating: ****