What flowers sound like…

Humans and human cultures are projective. We attribute all manner of quality and characteristic to non human phenomena. A stern assessment of this habit might be to suggest that it is a near lazy attempt at communication, rather than an exemplary attempt of listening for what is there. Translating imaginatively has given us myth and idiom, metaphor and song.

I came recently across a recording of a flower. And it wasn’t a Strelitzia -Bird of Paradise.


In this recording of a composition by avant garde musician composer John Cage, Cathy Berberian gifted with a beautiful mezzo-soprano, is accompanied by a piano. The closed instrument is being used percussively, hence the various tapping sounds. The vocalese, primarily a series of “uh” and “wuh” sounds sung without vibrato, are explicated with a few indications and annotations by composer Cage. Here and there, according to the score, the sounds made should recall a duck or a water fowl. Flower becoming bird? 

Should you care to discover more of Cathy Berberians work, such as Stripsody, click on the link. Her 1966  score is equally interesting and not unlike Christian Marclay’s 2010 Manga Scroll, performed first at the Whitney Museum in New York by exemplary improvisational singers. But we are now straying far afield from our flower.