- Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic is a musical group founded in
Boston, Massachusettsin 1980.
The music of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic is almost entirely instrumental, and incorporates many different musical elements; critic Rick Anderson writes, "Very few bands have ever managed to straddle the worlds of modern classical music and rock as successfully as this one did." [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:9jsxlfkegcqp~T1] In his liner notes for their "Beat of the Mesozoic" EP, Boston rock critic
Eric Vandubbed them "the world's hardest-rocking chamber musicquartet." Another memorable description came from Jim Sullivan of the " Boston Globe": "classical-punk-jazz-car-wreck music."
Birdsongs owes its origins to the 1978 breakup of the Boston
post-punkband Moving Parts, which included Erik Lindgren(vocals, keyboards) and Roger Miller (vocals, guitar). Miller went on to form the seminal post-punkgroup Mission of Burma(1979-1983; 2002-present), while Lindgren concentrated on production work in his home recording studio.
While the Parts' breakup had been civil, Lindgren felt the need for an act of overt reconciliation, and in late 1980, he offered free studio time to his former bandmate should Miller have any non-Burma material he wanted to record. Miller had just written his first solo
pianopieces in years, and jumped at the offer. Lindgren volunteered to provide some keyboard overdubs. Given that musical differences had led to the breakup of their earlier band, both musicians were surprised at the effectiveness of the collaboration. Burma tape loopartist Martin Swopewas then enlisted for further overdub work on electric guitar.
The recording project might have ended there had not Boston's Modern Method record label approached Miller and asked for a Burma track for a
compilation album. Miller instead offered "Pulse Piece" from the sessions, naming the makeshift group "Birdsongs of the Mesozoic," a reference to a "Birdsongs of America" album that Swope had sampled during the sessions and to then-new theories about the dinosaurancestry of birds (Miller having been a dinosauraficionado as a young child). The Mesozoicera covered the period of roughly 65 million years ago to 248 million years ago, and is sometimes called the "age of dinosaurs. The band created a Pterosaursilhouette as a logo, which they still use as of 2007, in a slightly modified version.
Birdsongs established and performs live
Nothing further might have come from the project had not Modern Method also asked Miller if Birdsongs could perform at the album's 1981 record release party. For this performance, a lineup was assembled consisting of Miller on
piano, Lindgren on synthesizer, Swope on guitar, and Rick Scott on electric organ, with all members doubling on percussion instruments. (Miller and Scott had both previously lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and had been bandmates in the short-lived Red Ants in that city.)
While there had been no intention to play more than the one gig, audience response was so strong that further shows were booked. The ensemble became a significant side project for Miller and Swope, and recorded a six-song eponymous EP (virtually the entire repertoire at the time) for Burma's label Ace of Hearts. Birdsongs opened for Burma at least once, and Burma's drummer
Peter Prescottcontributed to Birdsongs recordings and performances.
tinnitusworsened in 1982, the existence of Birdsongs as a quieter alternative was a significant factor in Miller's decision to end Mission of Burma in 1983. In fact, he stopped writing Burma material and began writing more aggressive material for Birdsongs, such as "Shiny Golden Snakes" (which became the lead track of their first full-length album, "Magnetic Flip.") After Burma's breakup, Birdsongs became democratized, and Swope, Scott, and especially Lindgren began composing original material.
They did occasional
cover songs, which demonstrated the breadth of their influences: An adaptation of Stravinsky's " The Rite of Spring", the theme songs to two animated television shows (" Rocky & Bullwinkle" and " The Simpsons") and two different versions of Brian Eno's "Sombre Reptiles".
after Miller and Swope leave
In 1987 Miller left the group he founded to concentrate on his Maximum Electric Piano project, which he had recently begun as a
side projectto Birdsongs. Miller was replaced by another Ann Arbor expatriate, saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Adams of Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet (who had shared many memorable bills with Birdsongs). With Adams onboard, Birdsongs music had a new jazz element to their sound. Within six months, however, Adams was offered a position in the Rova Saxophone Quartet, and was replaced by saxophonist/flautist/keyboardist Ken Field. This lineup recorded two albums for Cuneiform Records(the first featuring Adams as well).
Swope left in 1993 and was replaced by guitarist
Michael Bierylo. This lineup has remained stable to 2007, and has recorded several further albums for Cuneiform. The music of the current lineup has less punk sound and more modern classical and jazzcolorings than the original line-up, but their music is still very eclectic.
In 2006, Birdsongs released "Extreme Spirituals", a collection of traditional American gospel songs and spirituals, with singer Oral Moses.
* [http://www.birdsongsofthemesozoic.com/ Official Site]
*amg | id = 11:42o7gjvrj6ip | label = Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
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