January 20, 2014 - 1:48am

A free public lecture exploring the portrayal of birdsong in music over the centuries kicks off the Arts & Humanities Spring Colloquium Series Friday, Jan. 24 at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

Sasha Koerbler, Professor in the Music Department at VIU, will present “One Bird,Two Notes: ‘Bird Painting’ in Music”, a lecture examining the portrayal of birdsong in music from the Renaissance era into the 20th century. The lecture takes place in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre from 10 to 11:30 am. Refreshments are available prior to the lecture start.

“’Word painting’ means to musically portray selected words when setting lyrics to music, a technique composers have used since the Middle Ages,” Koerbler says.

“The imitation of birdsong was already evident in Renaissance vocal music,” she adds, “but it was in the Baroque era that the depiction of birdsong spread into instrumental music, where its best examples can be heard in Vivaldi’s composition The Four Seasons.”

Composers of the Classical era incorporated more sophisticated, birdsong-inspired elements into their instrumental compositions, Koerbler says, “and it has even been suggested that the well-known opening piece in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 was based on yellowhammer birdsong.”

Koerbler will also use her Colloquium presentation to demonstrate how elements of birdsong thrived in Romantic music, permeating the 19th-century vocal and instrumental repertoire of many composers, including Schubert and Mahler, and then spread further into the work of 20th-century composers such as Debussy and Messiaen.

The Arts & Humanities Colloquium Series, celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2014, continues Feb. 14 with a presentation by Professor Doug Stetar titled “‘Song of the Grass-Mud Horse’: Language & Resistance in Chinese Social Media.” The instructor in VIU’s Department of Media Studies and Digital Media Technology will explore how several hundred million Chinese now use social media to support, question and vehemently challenge their government.

The final Spring 2014 Colloquium presentation on March 28 will celebrate the Series’ five years of university-community engagement through this free, public lecture series. Faculty and student presenters will explore “Fascinating Technologies: Future Directions in the Arts and Humanities,” followed by a catered reception.

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