Caitlin Rowley says her piece “Nightbirds” is best listened to with headphones. The title is also the source audio, birdsong captured and manipulated. There is no caged bird singing. There is some vestige of the wild bird, worked with out of context, the sounds transformed into files, and the files into something else. Rowley labels the piece as “acousmatic,” which is to say it’s tape music, intended to be heard not performed, or that the performance is the act of hitting play.
At first it may very well be just birdsong, though the tight echo suggests either an unfamiliar species or a circumstance with very particular acoustics. The echo is not the result of a room, but of the virtual chamber of Rowley’s digital audio workstation. The found sound is, in short order, transformed beyond anything a fellow bird might recognize. It gets deeper, darker, less content. The nightbird song merges with the night.