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a soundwalk in Eden

composed for the Making Paradise exhibition
at the Aga Khan Centre Gallery, 29 April – 30 September 2021

Exploring the concept of Eden through Art & Islamic Garden Design

sonogram of the full composition

Structurally my composition has four movements, interspersed or punctuated by short passages of breezes. The four themes are represented by nightingale, hoopoe, golden oriole and orphean warbler.

The first two are chosen for their cultural prominence throughout the general region associated with the Garden of Eden, as well as their iconic voices. The golden oriole and orphean warbler are personal choices for the sense that their songs convey of the landscape of Eden, a paradise on earth. Both occur in habitats that are a rich balance between nature and human culture and are found from Mediterranean Europe into the Middle East.

Nightingale is the most revered songbird throughout the cultures of Europe and the Middle East: its singing is emblematic of passion, love and loss in threads that run from early mythologies through to literary works of the historic period. Here presented in a dawn chorus.

The hoopoe, with its onomatopaeic name, is celebrated in Greek literature of the 5th century BCE and in the Persian Conference of Birds as a leader, a convener and diplomat of the bird tribes. It’s considered a wise bird and appears to have been important in augury. It’s presented in my piece accompanied by other iconic related species and the turtle dove (of biblical fame).

The orchestration of four corresponds to the architecture of Islamic garden design; and the breeze interludes reflect the role of the wind in Islamic traditions.

The sound elements in each sequence reflect the environmental principles of earth, air, water and, to some extent, fire. The crickets are of the earth; the birds are of the air, and water is itself. All the birds are summer migrants to the latitudes of Europe and the Middle East, following the sun in its seasonal trajectory; and for me, a northern European at 55˚N latitude, all these are birds of the exotic south, warmer lands. Birds of fire.

So, a personal impression of Eden, conceived somewhere between northern Britain and a Greek island that is a gateway to the east.

Here's a short extract from the piece, where the golden oriole begins to sing.

a pair of golden orioles at their nest

Golden Orioles by Winifred Austen 1909.