Released beside Porya Hatami’s evocative The Black Woodpecker, Michael Trommer‘s The Great Northern Loon launches Flaming Pines’ new series Birds of a Feather, a dozen CD3″s that will be unveiled over the course of a year. Trommer recorded the bird’s “eerie cry” from a canoe in Ontario’s Georgian Bay, adding to the recording’s personal resonance. While the loon, as Trommer relates, is often credited in legend as creating the world, in this piece the composer gets to do some creating of his own.
As in Hatami’s piece (reviewed here separately), the birdsong does not immediately appear; a nest is first created in which it may safely reside. The peaceful ambient undulations of the first minutes are indeed reminiscent of a soft canoe voyage, accompanied by a few distant cries. But as the piece descends into near-silence, the loon takes center stage. One of the selling points of this series seems to be the distinct nature of specific birds; none would mistake a woodpecker’s hunting barrage for the forlorn call of the loon. There it is at 7:39; a sound I often heard on visits to upstate New York as a child, but was ever unable to identify: haunting yet oddly comforting all at once, repetitions bringing an additional sense of safety. The music curls around the loon like a mist; other birds join the conversation, but only as commentators. This is the music of the wild: initial notes the same, subsequent notes rising or falling on the scale. These center minutes work the best; as the canoe drifts slowly away, the music returns, and with it the melancholy of a return to civilization.
Next in the series: installments from The Green Kingdom and Darren McClure. Some artists have not yet chosen their birds; the ostrich, for one, is still available. I’m hoping for an owl (seems like a safe bet), and perhaps a murder of crows. While it would be hard to top the finale of The Cure’s “Like Cockatoos”, a wild card artist in the series (as All N4tural in the Rivers Home series) might add an extra layer of excitement. One thing’s for sure: every release is this series is going to be worth the anticipation. (Richard Allen)