While Neeve can clearly see musical notes emanating from the blackbird’s beak, she cannot be sure whether this is as a result of an understanding of musical theory by the blackbird or if he is simply playing by ear. Blackbirds are generally not known for studying musical theory, however, this blackbird is unusual in that he just happens to have read all the books on the subject by Annie O. Warburton.
The evidence of his understanding of melodic form is there for all to see and is notated in the traditional western style of musical notes. If it had been illustrated in another form, then that may have indicated an alternative route to his musical skills. For example, if his birdsong had been represented by small flutes flowing from his beak and into the seashell that would have been one way of representing the musical lyricism of his song. However, we know that blackbird’s ombiture does not lend itself to playing the flute. Another option would have been to paint some swirling abstract cloud as a representation of the birdsong but in testing this option with a focus group, (made up of my wife) she thought that small children would look at this and wonder why the blackbird was smoking a cigarette. This is obviously not a good idea and therefore not used. Finally, the illustration could have shown small groups of humming birds flying out of the blackbird’s beak but this was rejected, as they would probably have looked more like bees, which also happen to hum but this is mainly because they do not know all the words to most songs.
So we were left with the musical notation, especially fitting due to the fact that the blackbird had studied musical theory and fully understood what we were trying to achieve through the painting. The only problem with this approach is that small children may end up stalking blackbirds in the hope that sheet music issues from their beaks. As for Neeve she is clearly delighted with the blackbird’s theoretical musical background, which adds to the delight of receiving the song. There will be more in the next blog.