Birds Song

This is a permanent installation in the townhall square at Fontenay-le-Fleury (78), France, which was Inaugurated in 2013.


Accessible to the public, operation from 8am to 8pm.

 The square, named after composer Olivier Messiaen, lies next to the forest. The area is undergoing complete renovation; an “Olivier Messiaen” school  has emerged, and a brand new gymnasium. The square directly overlooks what was once wild countryside, but which has now been tamed by man. Houses are all around, and behind them lies the freeway.
 We live there now.
 Where birds once lived; they are still around. We would like to hear them sing again.
 Everything here seems to echo bird songs imagined by Olivier Messiaen in his work:  nature within an entirely man-made musical piece. Nature (the Divine for Messiaen) is honored at this feast for the ears through musical interpretations of bird songs recorded from around the world.
 Exotic rhythms, color contrasts, and other expressions of the great composer’s relationship with the world, all communicate a certain universality.
 Things to see and hear
 I saw that square, at a time when it was empty, its buildings boasting their bold, sharp lines; their colors (red, charcoal grey, white)so strong and pure,… and I imagined a set of birdhouses that played original works based on bird songs. The music urges us to remember past lives, a light and merry world, and is played at various moments throughout the day. It is also an invitation to inhabit this space, to discover how much the natural world can transport us, and enable us to reinvent new shapes and spaces. It is a also a meeting place and time for man and nature.
 The birdhouses, an extension of the “Garden of Sensations” installation, create a spatial rhythm that offers multiple perspectives. Each birdhouse is unique, some play music and some are left empty and silent, ready to attract and house “real” birds.
 A day’s sounds of the installation (A day of sound in the installation)
 My starting point was the active hours of certain bird species during the day. Peak activity is when these feathered friends sing the most, emphasizing their sonic identity, through dialog, displays, calls, etc.
 I then composed a series of short pieces based on the birdsongs of the species I selected. Each birdhouse is one voice of these modern compositions and plays its specific part: dialog, response, polyphony, etc.
 The birdhouses were then fitted with solar-powered clocks, and at certain times of day (and part of the night), they trigger original music pieces to be played. Each start of a melody corresponds to a peak moment of activity of one of the species that inspired the creation.
 In this respect, the installation is a sun dial-like time device, punctuating the day with original music from somewhere else, inviting us to meet with nature in a poetical and playful way.