• An Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tyrannica). (Ardea Picture Library / AAP)Source: Ardea Picture Library / AAP
Songbirds evolved in Australia thirty-three million years ago before spreading throughout the world. Now, they're the stars and composers of a new music project.
Rae Johnston

14 Jan 2021 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2021 - 4:34 PM

The endangered noisy scrub-bird, the Western Gerygone, the Pied Butcherbird and the Australian Magpie feature in a new music project at Edith Cowan University.

The project is the brainchild of Jean-Michel Maujean, PhD candidate at Western Australian Performing Arts (WAAPA).

Mr Maujean's research is focused on celebrating the natural melodies of WA birdsongs. While the birds provide the music, Mr Maujean compliments it with unique instruments.

"I'm writing a suite of works, and in each one, the bird will play and act like a melody with DIY instruments complementing what the bird is doing," said Mr Maujean.

Self-made instruments including a PVC cello, 3D printed flutes, and a simple-to-use scoring technique (similar to ‘Guitar Hero’) accompany the birdsong and make it easy for audiences to follow along and play at the same time.

“The main goal is for the community to understand, and potentially be inspired in their own individual creative or scientific adventure, or even just simply go for a bushwalk,” he said.

"I hope that my research will help people to engage with the environment. By appreciating and seeing how rich and beautiful it is, we might be encouraged to care more about nature."

Mr Maujean said the relative isolation of Australia, along with an abundance of nectar, has contributed to great diversity in Australian songbirds.

“Australian birds are so distinctive -- they’re more likely to be noisy, aggressive and are more intelligent than birds anywhere else in the world.”

So far, Mr Maujean’s recordings have focused on four native Western Australian birds, but he's open to more suggestions.

"I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share their own insights on birdsong, species and locations or perhaps collaborate on compositions and performance," said Mr Maujean.

New high speed 'tube fishway' technology aims to get fish up and over dam walls
A new technology that lets fish glide past dam walls, weirs and other river barriers could mean a better future for our diminishing freshwater fish.