Lyrebirds and music

Catch PhD composition candidate Jane Hammond  on ABC Radio National. All about lyrebirds and significant portions of her work ‘A Lyrebird in Paris’ performed by Monash University’s ensemble-in-residence, Ensemble Liaison.

Bird of many songs

Saturday 27 July 2013 4:05PM

For thousands of years the lyrebird, or lyrebirds (both the Superb and the Albert’s) have intrigued and enchanted those who are lucky enough to see their displays and hear their consummate mimicry . The Aborigines have stories of them and they have entered into contemporary mythology for their skills. There are those who believe their mimicry encompasses not only the calls of other birds but also sounds of human making—axes, chainsaws, cameras, car alarms and, most alluring of all, the tunes of a country flautist.

In this program we touch on these ideas and join a walk taken some years ago by the conservationist and wilderness activist Milo Dunphy, through some pretty rough terrain, in search of the shy birds and their display mounds.


We experience the excitement of the first recordings from Sherbrooke Forest in1937, hear a tale told by Ernie Dingo and learn about how lyrebirds have inspired composers and musicians from many backgrounds.

With composer, natural scientist and artist Edward Cowie, musicologist Simon Andrew Purtell from the Lyrebird Press and music by leading didjeridu player Matthew Doyle and Michael Atherton, Jane Hammond, Edward Cowie, Olivier Messiaen and others.

With extracts from Andrew McLennan’s program ‘Imaging the Forest’.


Jane Hammond’s ‘Lyrebird in Paris’ was recorded in 2011 for 3MBS by Alan Hutchison and provided by 3MBS for the program. Our thanks to Sally Hutchison, Alan Hutchison and 3MBS.

Edward Cowie’s Lyrebird Motet has just been released on Signum Classics under the title Gesangbuch: Choral Works by Edward Cowie.