Jon Rose, 2023

Mparntwe Moments – Musical Adventures in the Red Centre

Inspired by the extraordinary song of the Pied Butcherbird and based on field recordings of Hollis Taylor and Jon Rose, this album is the interaction of different cultures and musical traditions - a musical adventure in the red centre of Australia.

The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music –

Thirteen million years ago, pied butcherbirds separated from the common Corvid ancestor and evolved a preference for song. It is reasonable to assume they have been creating music throughout that time (indeed, it is 250 million years since birds and mammals shared a common ancestor). The ancient lineage of the butcherbird reminds us that humans are new on the block vis-à-vis the invention and perception of melody. In spring, each bird performs nocturnal long songs of one to seven hours in duration. No two individuals sing alike, and songs transform annually with new variations and motives. Our task is not to “improve” on birdsong in our (re)compositions but to celebrate these musical achievements.


—Hollis Taylor and Jon Rose

Impressions of a musical adventure

By Susanne Fröhlich
Valley of Winds
Susanne Fröhlich, 2023

“Australia - a country that was always a bit too far away for me and only seemed to be known to me through kangaroos, koala bears, forest fires and fireworks at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Who would have thought that this continent would one day anchor itself so firmly in my heart, with its intense colours, exotic plants, and virtuoso bird songs - simply breathtakingly beautiful.

It all began with an invitation to me and the double bass player Meinrad Kneer from the Alice Springs-based violinist, composer, zoömusicologist and ornithologist Hollis Taylor. I was well aware of her book Is Birdsong Music? and the accompanying album Absolute Bird, especially as some of the solo pieces were written for recorder. But as is so often the case in life, things only take on a special significance when you experience them first hand.

Flight to Alice Springs
Susanne Fröhlich, 2023
Singing Pied Butcherbird at Lichtenfield National Park, NT
Duade Paton, 2014

Hollis has been studying the song of an extraordinary Australian bird, the Pied Butcherbird, for 20 years. In her research, she proves that the song of the Pied Butcherbird is not only a form of communication, but also has an aesthetic character, with a technique and inventiveness equal to human compositions.

The aim of our residency was to exchange ideas with this extraordinary artist, to get to know her research method, to enter a musical dialogue with her and to experience Pied Butcherbirds in the wild. An absolute gift one morning was the reconnaissance trip to Hollis' respective observation positions. Although it was still wintertime, temperatures were already rising, and Hollis assumed that some of the birds would start to musically get in shape. It is impressive what challenges the now 72-year-old woman faces year after year and what efforts she takes on. Just the early start into absolute darkness, equipped with several recording devices and high-quality microphones, a GPS unit, several jumpers, windproof jackets, some snacks and several litres of water, a pressure bandage in case one should encounter a snake and of course a bag with a shovel and toilet paper for earthly needs.

Total Darkness
Susanne Fröhlich, 2023
Finally Sun
Susanne Fröhlich, 2023

For the first few hours we trudge through the freezing cold and somewhat oppressive loneliness, defying the fatigue that creeps in again and again with amusing anecdotes. I ask myself several times how Hollis manages to do it when she's on her own. But as soon as the first birds make themselves known and start their fantastic songs, the effort is quickly forgotten. The first rays of sunshine provide warmth, the fog slowly dissipates, the world awakens, and you are immersed in a magical spectacle of nature, a completely new universe of sound, your mind wide awake, your ears pricked up.

Our stay in Alice Springs was unique, and we still haven't quite processed all that we experienced. We've never been to a town like this, in the middle of the desert, with trees and plants we've never seen before and bird species we've never heard of. Nature is stunning, and I hope we can convey that in this album in one way or another. The repertoire is as diverse as the land itself and consists of composed works and improvisations. The three solo pieces and the trio bear as their title the respective place where the Pied Butcherbird was recorded. Just as the bird's song changes with each piece, I also play a different recorder model in each piece and thus encounter the bird anew each time. The improvisations on Batton Hill were inspired by our visit to the Desert Park in Alice Springs, where we were able to listen to the multi-layered, virtuoso songs of various bird species in one of the aviaries. The second improvisation, Winds of Centralia, centres on an Aeolian harp built and recorded by Jon Rose, violinist, composer, and Hollis' partner. A wide variety of natural forces, contrasts and chance encounters can be heard here. An open ending that should leave you wanting more.”

Us Four
Susanne Fröhlich, 2023

Recordings on August 7/8/11, 2023 in Alice Springs.


The Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the University of Sydney and the Corrugations concert series generously supported Susanne and Meinrad in Central Australia for an artist residency on The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music. Luiz Gubeissi kindly loaned his double bass for the project.

Participating artists

More artists

Tonaufnahmen durch Jon Rose.
Editing, Mixing, Mastering mit Alexis Baskind.
Trailer von Johannes Hölker.

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