Blue Cliff Records

Hermitage of Thrushes

Hermitage of Thrushes

Digital download and CDs on Bandcamp


How do you know but that ev’ry bird that cuts the airy way
Is an immense world of delight, closed to your senses five?
— Blake

During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, I’ve been secluded for months at my home in the Virginia woods, going “nowhere” – and finding birdsong everywhere around me. Daily walks on the trail, coming home with recordings in my pocket. Into the computer with them, monkeying with the sounds, adding voices from Violectra, violin, viola d’amore. In early March when the lockdowns started here, I couldn't have predicted that I'd be joining the legions of composers who've benefited from birdsong over the centuries & millennia.

Charles Hartshorne at the end of his book on birdsong: “It is a stupendous fact about nature that the territorial disputes of thousands of species are something like artistic contests – song duels. The struggle is mainly musical (contersinging), not pugilistic. If only human beings could do so well.”

The piece titled “Grandpa’s Garage” doesn’t sound anything like my grandpa’s garage, which during my childhood in Los Angeles contained between 40 and 50 finches, canaries, and parrots. No crows. No burbling chthonic bass sounds. A bricklayer by trade, he raised birds and sold them. In his youth in Russia, he raised homing pigeons that would fly 2000 miles across Siberia and back.

Thanks to my beloved wife, Leslie Blackhall, for wonderful ideas during the composition process (and the title).