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Christopher Tin

The Lost Birds

Decca Classics
Release Date: July 22, 2022

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Interview w/ WOSU
Interview w/ Winnipeg's Classic107
Christopher Tin at the Nominee Reception
1 Flocks a Mile Wide  
2 The Saddest Noise  
3 Bird Raptures  
4 A Hundred Thousand Birds  
5 Wild Swans  
6 Passenger Pigeon  
7 Thus In the Winter  
8 There Will Come Soft Rains  
9 All That Could Never Be Said  
10 I Shall Not See the Shadows  
11 In the End  
12 Hope Is the Thing with Feathers  
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The sky was once full of birds. Magnificent flocks so enormous that they would darken the skies for days as they flew overhead. The most awe-inspiring of these flocks belonged to a bird called the passenger pigeon. At their height, they were the most numerous bird species in North America, with a population estimated at 5 billion. But over the course of a few decades, we eradicated them for food, using nothing but the crudest 19th-century hunting technology. With callous indifference, we simply shot them out of the sky, one by one, until their songs were never heard again. 

The Lost Birds is a memorial for their loss, and the loss of other species due to human activity. It's a celebration of their beauty--as symbols of hope, peace, and renewal. But it also mourns their absence--through the lonely branches of a tree, or the fading echoes of distant bird cries. And like the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine, it's also a warning: that unless we reverse our course, the fate that befell these once soaring flocks will be a foreshadowing of our own extinction.

To pay proper tribute to these birds, I adopted a distinctly 19th-century musical vocabulary: one based on the tunefulness of folk songs, with a string orchestra accompaniment that's both soaring and melancholy. And to put their story into words, I turned to four 19th-century poets--Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sara Teasdale. These women saw their world transform from a pastoral society to an industrial one--one in which humans, for the first time, began disastrously reshaping the environment. And the poems which I selected depict an increasingly fraught world: first without birds, and ultimately without humans.

We are now in the 21st century, and our tools for affecting the world around us--emissions, pesticides, deforestation--are more indiscriminate and cruelly efficient. As bird, fish, animal, and insect populations crash around us, we increasingly find ourselves in a silent world--one in which the songs of birds are heard less and less. We hope that the silence can be filled by more voices speaking up on behalf of these lost birds--for their sake, and for ours.

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