This Composer Made An Orchestra Sound Like A Flock Of Starlings. It’s Mesmerizing

<p>Photo: Walter Baxter/<a href="" target="_blank">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></p>
<p>A murmuration of starlings. </p>
Photo: Starling murmuration
A murmuration of starlings.

Bird songs have served as a source of inspiration for composers since the Medieval era. Few musical tricks bring nature into the concert hall better than echoing a bird call.

Canadian composer Jordan Pal takes that basic idea in a new direction with his piece “Starling,” written for the Thunder Bay Symphony and the Gryphon Trio. Instead of copying the call of a single bird, he draws his inspiration from a whole flock of starlings. And he doesn’t stop at emulating their songs.

As millions of YouTube viewers know, the sight of a starling murmuration is mesmerizing. Thousands of birds swarm together in the sky. A single three-dimensional figure emerges, twisting and turning as the birds dive and climb in a spontaneous, collective motion.

Pal also plays with instrumentation to suggest a flock of birds in motion. The Gryphon Trio acts as soloists, with their individual piano, violin and cello parts melding into a coherent mass. At other times, the soloists combine with the full orchestra to create a dense, churning sound painting of murmuration. The music is as entrancing and beautiful as the nature it imitates.

Sample the music in this Spotify playlist: