Between the Song and the Silence: No.1 - Twitchers
Twitchers are avid birders who will travel, often long distances (globe-trotting is not unheard of), in order to add a rare bird to their “list”. For those that prefer to stay closer to home, they’ll gladly get up in the middle of the night to drive 3 or 4 hours to look for unusual birds.
I knew that I definitely wanted birdwatchers, or birders as they are generally known, to make up the “choir”. If I used professionals then I was basically going to have to teach them to be birders, so why not cut to the chase and use the real thing?
Most experienced birders would be well-acquainted with performing bird calls from mnemonics, and would likely have a real sense of how the different bird calls should sound.
Sandeep Bhagwati had reminded me that deciding to use amateurs would lead to certain other concerns: chiefly that they might be more nervous about performing, and so I would have to think about how I could stage it to allow them to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
In fact, in allowing my birders to be just that, birders, I think I’ve also resolved another issue with regard to staging. In wanting performers to be as comfortable as possible, Sandeep and I had talked about providing the performers with some kind of ritual that would be logical, in the way that walking up to a microphone or podium can literally set the stage for a performer. Avid birders come with their own set of props.
Allowing them to come-as-they-are, in birder “uniform”, which usually consists of neutral or camouflage clothing (as may be seen in the photo in the above link) and all of the attendant equipment; cameras, state-of-the art binoculars, recording equipment, iPads, notebooks (the paper variety), tripods and monopods and everything in between could provide that level of ritual or comfort.
It would provide a “blind” of sorts for the birders, not unlike that that they would use to ostensibly hide from the rare birds they pursue. Often when I have watched videos of twitchers in pursuit of their quarry, I have been struck by the sounds that I wasn't expecting. With all of their equipment they sound remarkably like the paparazzi at a media event where they’ve been told they can take as many pictures as they’d like, as long as they don’t say anything … All you can hear are the sounds of camera shutters clicking, the jangling of various pieces of equipment, and the odd twitcher doing a bird call in the hopes that the object of their desire will respond in kind.
Hmmmm … so what if I were to have them enter the same way they would arrive at a birding spot; camouflage, equipment and all? And what if they were to set up their equipment and take photos and recordings of the audience? And then begin to call out the calls of the extinct and threatened birds as if those were what they were looking for?
The more I think about it happening in this way, as more of a narrative, the more it feels right.
More things to consider:
So now I find myself wanting to give this further consideration and develop a libretto for the piece!
With all of their equipment they sound remarkably like the paparazzi at a media event where they’ve been told they can take as many pictures as they’d like, as long as they don’t say anything …