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'An Embroidery Of British Bird Song' is both a continuation of and development from ideas I have been pursuing in other works, especially 'Mobile Dawn in an Old World Garden', a piece based on nightingale recordings made in Beatrice Harrison's garden and 'Songs of Garden Guitars' (currently in development), a set of guitar improvisation fragments mapped onto structures of birdsong.

It was this first piece 'Mobile Dawn', made for the Egenis 'Anti-Parallel show' in 2007, that began my interest in recorded birds and is an example of how a single chance find, in this case a negelected 78rpm record in a second hand store, can lead to new work.

Taking a cue from the genesis of Mobile Dawn I have centered this new composition on an LP by Victor C. Lewis entitled 'A Tapestry of British Bird Song' (1964; EMI-CLP 1723). Lewis was one of those pioneering recordists who went to great lengths to obtain and share his birdsong recordings and A Tapestry is credited with being the first long-playing (LP) record to be released in the UK that focused solely on the sounds of birds (see

The album is well-presented with a composite image of the stained glass Gilbert White Memorial Window at St. Mary's church, Selborne, Hants. In addition to the useful information on the back of the cover, it also comes with an expansive inner leaflet, containing an introduction by the natural history broadcaster Jeffrey Boswall and extensive notes on each band of the record, with references and further reading by Victor Lewis himself. It is obviously a labour of love.

The recording itself is unusual in that within each track or 'band' (each side contains seven bands) there is a spoken guide by Lewis, indicating his intention to contextualise and educate, as well as present the beauty of these avian songs and calls.

My starting point for this composition was to quickly select just two of the recorded sections (side 2, Bands 4 and 7) and to begin to work with these, taking fragments from the whole, seeking to integrate both bird and human sounds, including the trace of the sound of the record scratches.
© 2015 Paul Ramsay