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 July 11


Last week I had no podcasts to share.  This week I have a bumper crop!

Afropop Worldwide :: Remembering Tony Allen

Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died this spring, shortly after releasing his final album Rejoice, with Hugh Masekela. Afropop Worldwide revisits Allen’s storied career.

BackStory :: The End of the Road: BackStory and the History of Finales in America

My favorite history podcast BackStory comes to an end with an episode about finales in American history, from President George Washington to Mary Tyler Moore.

Hidden Brain :: The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen’s Murder Case

The story of a Black Boston teenager, Fred Clay, who spent 38 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on evidence the police extracted using hypnosis.

The Last Archive :: For the Birds

Rachel Carson, the extinction of bird species, and climate change.

99% Invisible :: Freedom House Ambulance Service

The modern practice of paramedics serving communities with an emergency medical service began in the Black community in Pittsburgh just over 50 years ago.

60-Second Science :: Animals Appreciate Recent Traffic Lull

One side benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is the reduced use of automobiles.  Some cities (not Boston, of course) have even taken advantage of creating space for people to walk and bike by closing roads to cars.  But even in rural areas, animals are thriving because of fewer collisions with motor vehicles.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Take Me Who Out to the Ballgame?

If you’re American, you’ve inevitably sung along with the chorus “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” baseball’s unofficial anthem.  But if you’ve never heard the chorus, you may not know that the song is about a woman who wants to watch baseball at a time when that was considered a men’s only activity.  The podcast explores the history of how the song went “viral” and features music by Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust.

Throughline :: The Long Hot Summer

Civil disturbances in Black communities in America in 1967 lead President Johnson to call the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report revealed evidence of police violence that was criticized and ignored at the time, but still reads as a diagnoses of our present-day crises.


Movie Review: The Three Caballeros (1944)


Title: The Three Caballeros
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Director: Norman Ferguson (supervising director), Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts,  and Harold Young
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

The second of Disney’s six package films of the World War II era is also the second to originate from Walt Disney & company’s good will visit to Latin America after Saludos Amigos (which I’ve not yet watched).  The movie focuses on Donald Duck receiving birthday gifts from his feathered friends in Latin America, the Brazilian parrot José Carioca and the Mexican rooster Panchito Pistoles.

The first two segments are animated shorts that we watch with Donald. “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” tells the story of a penguin named Pablo who hates the cold and migrates to the Galapagos. “The Flying Gauchito” tells the story of a boy from Uruguay who adopts a flying donkey.  Both stories are cute and feature lots of puns and sight gags.

José then joins Donald and takes him on a journey to Bahia in Brazil through a pop-up book where they sing and dance with Aurora Miranda. Panchito joins them and they learn the Christmas story of Las Posadas.  The three birds travel around Mexico on a flying sarape, exploring various song and dance traditions.  Then things get weird as Donald has surreal visions while singer Dora Luz performs.  Donald then dances with Carmen Molina among shrinking and swelling cactus before the grand finale.

For much of this movie Donald Duck is incredibly horny about the Latin American women performers.  Even if you set aside 2020 sensibilities about the “male gaze” and sexual harassment, the fact that these excellent performances by Miranda, Luz, and Molina keep getting upstaged by Donald going full-Tex Avery is just rude.  I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt they needed nonstop “comic relief” but it doesn’t feel like they had much goodwill for the artists of Latin America.  The visuals are pretty impressive in the animation and I really like the musical numbers, especially Aurora Miranda’s.

Rating: **1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 14


The Memory Palace :: Jackie Mitchell

The story of the first woman to play on a professional baseball team, most famous for pitching in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees and striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Hidden Brain :: Radically Normal: How Gay Rights Activists Changed The Minds Of Their Opponents

The acceptance of LGBTQ people in the United States has improved radically in a short period of time.  Hidden Brain explores what brought about the change in attitudes, and questions why other groups discriminated against have not seen as much positive change.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Birdsong

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?  Perhaps because they have something important to say.

99% Invisible :: Froebel’s Gifts

The origins of kindergarten date to the late 18th-century when Friedrich Froebel came up with the idea of teaching young children through the structured use of educational toys.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Photopost: Alligator Adventure


One of the highlights of our visit to Myrtle Beach was a day at Alligator Adventure.  The initial impression one my get of a place with this name is a roadside attraction, but Alligator Adventure is actually a small zoo with a large number of animals in spacious enclosures, mostly alligators and crocodiles, but also a good number of reptiles, birds, and some mammals from all over the world.  It helps to visit with an 8-year-old gatorphile and absorb his enthusiasm, but I think it was a fun place to visit and learned a bit about the animals.  Another highlight was the animal demonstrations where we go to touch and hold a small gator, turtle, and a ball python.

Photopost: Wachusett Meadow


For Father’s Day this year, we once again visited one of the most beautiful places on earth, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA.  I guess it’s a tradition now.

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Frog on a log. Far fewer than we saw last year.
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We had no idea what these red bumps were so we showed this picture to the naturalist. He believes it’s the remains of a slime mold.
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Looking out over the Beaver Pond.
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Daisy in the meadow.
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The Meadow changes with every step as the contours shift with a new perspective.
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Purple flowers (I’m an archivist, not a botanist, all right!)
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More wildflowers.
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The stone wall, a New England tradition.
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Frog on a lily pad.

Previously: Photopost: Wachusett Meadow (2012)

Photopost: Wachusett Meadows


We celebrated Father’s Day with a hike around the beautiful Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA.

Related Posts:

Book Review: A Pocketful of History by Jim Noles


A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America — One State Quarter at a Time (2008) by Jim Noles takes the State Quarter Program as a launching point for an engaging look at the 50 United States and the symbols chosen to represent them.  Often, Noles goes beyond simply telling the history of the image on the coins to delve deeper into the social and cultural history of the States.  For each quarter, Noles also discusses the other finalist for the quarter design, the process of approval, and circulation of each coin.  The only thing I could ask for is more illustrations of the people and things he discusses.

My favorites include:

  • revisiting my 4th grade social studies’ lesson of Connecticut’s Charter Oak (by far my favorite State Quarter).
  • the importance of the palmetto in fort construction in Revolutionary South Carolina
  • Rhode Island’s quarter inspires a history of yacht racing.
  • the “scandal” of Ohio depicting a living person by including an astronaut who must be John Glenn or Neil Armstrong.
  • Helen Keller’s Socialist ways make her an unlikely representative of Alabama as well as someone appearing on US currency.
  • Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds, where you can keep the diamonds you find (I didn’t know it existed).
  • exciting stories of storms on the Great Lakes make up for Michigan having the most boring quarter.
  • the Kansas quarter leads to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of African American cavalrymen who fought in the Indian Wars of the West.
  • Colorado’s purple mountains majesty hid a CIA training camp for Tibetan subversives.
  • Wyoming’s pioneering history in Women’s Suffrage.

The quarters open a door to learning about the states, their great people, buildings and places, arts, and flora and fauna (and their conservation).  Like the State Quarters themselves, A Pocketful of History will have a broad appeal beyond numismatic buffs.  I think it especially will be a good tool for teachers and children.

Author Noles, James L.
Title A pocketful of history : four hundred years of America–one state quarter at a time / Jim Noles.
Publication Info. Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, c2008.
Description xxvi, 324 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.