After a new year’s break, the endangered birds of one of Australia’s most unlikely chart-toppers, Songs of Disappearance, are back. Following its pre-Christmas ascent to the second spot on the Aria charts, the album – featuring the calls of 53 of Australia’s most at-risk aves – went well and truly south, virtually vanishing from the charts.
Last week, though, with the “Endangered Edition” – a deluxe version featuring a photo book and a bio of each species – hitting retail stores for the first time, the birds once again took flight. Soaring from 1012th position, the imperilled virtuosos have once again found a comfortable perch at number two on the charts – but not everyone is satisfied with the result.
“Can't believe that the release of the deluxe edition of #SongsofDisappearance has been pipped to the number one spot in the album charts by Korn! No offence, but I much prefer the musical stylings of Metallic Starlings over Californian Nu Metal!” Sean Dooley, national public affairs manager for Birdlife Australia tweeted at hearing the news on Friday.
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The unusual contender is the brainchild of Anthony Albrecht, a musician and PhD candidate at Charles Darwin University, who produced the album with the support of his advisor, professor Stephen Garnett, and in collaboration with Bowerbird Collective – a multimedia arts collective intent on strengthening our emotional connection to the natural world. Using recordings spanning more than four decades sourced by renowned wildlife documentarian David Stewart, the album has recently gained a US release and has a genuine shot at next week’s number one Aria spot.
The album’s original release in December last year followed a Birdlife Australia report which warned that “one in six Australian bird species were threatened with extinction from climate change and habitat destruction”.
Paul Sullivan, CEO of Birdlife Australia, hopes the album will draw much-needed attention to the plight of the birds while offering listeners a chance to connect with some of our last living dinosaurs, before it’s too late to save them. “This album is a very special record with some rare recordings of birds that may not survive if we don’t come together to protect them.”
While the haunting compilation may offer some of the stress-neutralising benefits of birdsong, not all our feathered friends are blessed with the dulcet tones we tend to expect of ambient nature soundtracks.
Reminiscent of vigorous balloon-art creation, the “song” of the gang-gang cockatoo almost certainly has phobia-triggering potential, while the satin bower bird’s contribution sounds more like what may happen if those balloons were slowly, and unflatteringly, deflated in chorus.
On the other hand, the embattled wrens of Australia – the purple-crowned fairy, the mallee-emu and fern – give great song, their chirping lilts and subtle melodies a bittersweet reminder of what we stand to lose.
Proceeds from sales of the album will go to Birdlife Australia, but you can preview the album here free of charge.