Centuries before the mp3, tape recorder or phonograph, people trained birds to sing fashionable music in the home. In this BBC Radio 4 documentary, produced by Neil McCarthy, I reveal the strange history of songbird training and explore the close associations between birdkeeping and sound recording.
This radio documentary is packed with some of my favourite bird training ephemera, including 1700s dance tunes and some wonderful 1950s bird training records. Human contributors include ornithologist Geoff Sample, poet Katrina Porteous, behavioural ecologist Tim Birkhead, composer Aleks Kolkowski and Yorkshire’s ‘Champion of Champions’ roller canary fancyer Ken Westmorland.
This BBC Radio 4 documentary aired at 1:30pm on 5 July 2011
It’s now available on Listen Again
I’ve also prepared this page of music clips and background notes (including transcriptions from the archives)
Thanks to Gillian Reynolds at The Telegraph for listening to this documentary and writing this lovely preview.