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The Dawn Chorus and Life Forces
Publish date: Jan 24, 2011
Summary: Some call it cacophony and are driven to madness; others find it the most beautiful event in all of creation—the dawn chorus of the birds.
In spring, before the sun’s morning rays light the heavens, the birds begin to sing. First one, then another, and finally all together singing to their heart’s content, if one can use such an expression. Each country has its own song where the species of birds differ; I shall never forget dawn chorus in the subtropical bush of northern New South Wales, Australia.
Here in southern England the bird life is especially prevalent in our locality. I have long admired the Blackbird Turdus merula for his song, yet after the summer solstice he gradually ceases to sing so regularly. This is also true for the Song Thrush Turdus musicus, often called England’s finest singer.
The song of the various birds is most beautiful and one must ask why they sing. The Rev. F.O. Morris in writing of the Nightingale says it ‘loves a neighbourhood where there is an echo, as if aware of and admiring its own music.’i Or is the Nightingale in that locality to enhance the effects of the music? Music! Here is our clue.
In the book A Pilgrimage with the Animalsii Dr Lascelles introduces us to the subtle nature of animals, and points to our failure to understand them as spiritual beings having a role and function in the labyrinth of life. “I want you to think of what you call the dawn chorus of the birds, that strange moment of nature just before the morning light seeps through. Suddenly, as you may have noticed if you have been lying awake, every bird in the neighbourhood breaks into song as though obeying some signal. For a time, while it is dark, the air is filled with orchestrated sound—the triumphant, challenging and positive sound of birds in song.”
“Now, why is this so? What prompts the birds into such a performance unequalled at any other time during the day?....This massed heralding in of the day awakens the earth in a magical way. Yes, actually awakens the earth as though God had arranged it, as indeed He has.”
“It has been said that you cannot hurt the humblest creature or disturb the smallest pebble without your action having a reaction upon something else...You cannot think an evil thought, no matter how privately, without it having an effect upon somebody else. Whatsoever you do in life sets up some form of resonance.”
“When I say the morning chorus of the birds awakens the earth I mean that the characteristic song of the birds sets in motion a series of vibrations which react upon other forms of life. Remember, the soil of the earth is full of living micro-organisms. The plants are also living organisms. You, yourselves, are living organisms. Now, this is the beauty and wonder of it all—when one aspect of nature has been moved into a state of resonance it immediately relays its vibrational motion to something else.”
“So when I say the dawn chorus awakens the earth I literally mean what I say. I do not suggest that the earth would come to a standstill without the bird song, but I do mean that life on earth would be sluggish and ineffectual without that first instigating outburst of vibrational power poured forth at just the right pitch and tone to set off a chain effect.”
“I know some of you will say, what happens in those parts of the world where there are no birds? Well, what does happen? Very little, I assure you. The hot deserts and the polar regions where there are few, if any, birds are not renowned for their wonders of nature. It is as though they are asleep. Nothing grows, few things live. Little resonates and there is a great stillness over everything.”
“You see, that outburst of sound just before the dawn is like the little lever which works the bigger lever which turns the wheel which moves the machine…and so on. Never underestimate small things.”
“Animals are blessed with an instantaneous and un-thought-out wisdom. They are in direct contact with God and they act and live as though they are fully aware of it. Men are also in contact with God, but most of them act as though they have never heard of God because they are largely veiled off from their divine centre by their own thinking minds of which they are so proud.”iii
The effects of birdsong on plant life may at first glance be far-fetched. Nigh on ten years ago an article appeared in Nexus Magazineiv on the discovery or invention of a method of growing plants using bird sounds. Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins describe the development of Dan Carlson’s Sonic Bloom in their book the Secret Life of Plants. Many others have, it seems, recognized the role of birdsong in the growth of plants, and influenced or directly helped Carlson to develop his invention.
Dan Carlson’s desire to see that no one need be hungry through shortage of food sought to understand the optimum growth of plants. His discovery was that plants also feed from ‘the top down’ as well as the roots. Underneath all leaves are pores called stomata which open to take in nutrients and moisture from the air. Carlson’s observation that the more bird life there is on the farm, the more abundant is plant life, has been echoed by farmers throughout history, except in modern times. Where there is little bird life, plants are stunted, dwarfed. Nature has the birds sing at dawn and dusk, which dilates the stomata, and so feeds the plants. One can immediately see the importance of trees.
The development of Sonic Bloom was to create birdsong, which is played to the plants, while a foliar nutrient is sprayed onto the plants at the same time as they are being stimulated by the sound, to enhance their growth . This method produced fantastic results in the amount of abundantly nutritious produce from one plant, often in poor soils and in drought conditions. Carlson showed that the breathing leaves of plants are the source of the nutrient intake for growth. This of course is also true for humans—the breath is food. We shall discourse on this at another occasion. Plants transfer nutrient to the soil via this breathing, and Carlson showed that his plants improved the soil and helped earthworms proliferate.
The secret of Sonic Bloom was the development of music of the same frequency as the dawn chorus of the birds. With the help of a Minneapolis music teacher, Michael Holtz, a cassette was prepared. It seems that both birds and plants found Indian melodies called ragas delightfully suitable. This is actually quite profound, although the American farmers, especially women, who had to endure this music whilst it was played to the plants, found it irritating. Holtz found the “Spring” movement of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons appropriate and concludes: “I realized that Vivaldi, in his day, must have known all about birdsong, which he tried to imitate in his long violin passages.”
Holtz, it is related by the authors Bird and Tompkins, also realized that the violin music dominant in “Spring” reflected Johann Sebastian Bach’s violin sonatas broadcast by the Ottawa University researchers to a wheat field, which had obtained remarkable crops with 66 percent greater yield than average, with larger and heavier seeds. Accordingly, Holtz selected Bach’s E-major concerto for violin for inclusion on the tape. “I chose that particular concerto,” explained Holtz, “because it has many repetitions but varying notes. Bach was such a musical genius he could change his harmonic rhythm at nearly every other beat, with his chords going from E to B to G-sharp and so on, whereas Vivaldi would frequently keep to one chord for as long as four measures. That is why Bach is considered the greatest composer that ever lived. I chose Bach’s string concerto, rather than his more popular organ music, because the timbre of the violin, its harmonic structure, is far richer than that of the organ.”v
Birdsong has long been loved, but also studied with reference to the musical scale and harmonics. As Holtz deepened his study he said, “I began to feel that God had created the birds for more than just freely flying about and warbling. Their very singing must somehow be intimately linked to the mysteries of seed germination and plant growth.”
“I guess Rachel Carsonvi was right,” Holtz said nostalgically. “The spring season down on the farms is much more silent than ever before. DDT killed off many birds and others never seem to have taken their place. Who knows what magical effect a bird like the wood thrush might have on its environment, singing three separate notes all at the same time, warbling two of them and sustaining the others!”
Tree and bird life are essential to earth existence, which Carlson, Holtz and others have shown, but indeed others see and feel. “Plants”, says Steiner, “can only be understood when considered in connection with all that is circling, weaving, and living around them. In spring and autumn, when swallows produce vibrations as they flock in a body of air, causing currents with their wing beats, these and birdsong, have a powerful effect on the flowering and fruiting of plants. Remove the winged creatures, Steiner warns, and there would be a stunting of vegetation.”vii Nothing more need be added here.
Music and Human Development
Whilst Birdsong reflects the beauty and subtlety of the underlying majesty of Nature, we as creators or creative beings can devise the instruments with which music is made. The human being is an instrument; the creation of musical instruments is modelled on the human frame. The lyre is the archetypal instrument of the Greeks. The four-stringed lyre is the instrument upon which the human is created.
The vibrations of the universe are the underlying spirit of creation; the soul experiences the spiritual with music. With musical experience, one subtly perceives the cosmic existence out of which one is fashioned. The Lyre of Apollo is seen to be the nerve fibres (as rami) of the spinal column. This is adequately experienced in the tingles felt in the appreciation of music that is attuned to one’s inner note. More directly one can experience the sound of music ‘lighting up’ or activating the various rami on the spinal column thus revitalising the entire being, and having a rhapsodic moment in the beauty of harmony. Such experiences can occur with the simple polyphony of the Middle Ages to the orchestral complexity of the Classical composers.
Music in Therapy
The authors of The Secrets of the Soil made a insightful comment on the way the imitated birdsong of Dan Carlson’s Sonic Bloom was homoeopathic in the way that a small quantity of sound met with a large response in the plants, in growth, vitality, and nutrient abundance of the produce. They are forgiven for their undiscriminating use of the word homoeopathic, for what is meant is the minimal dose to achieve a large response.
Generally, the use of sound is not used widely in therapy. One can well imagine the efficacy of a homoeopathic remedy being greatly enhanced if the patient were prior to and immediately after taking a remedy to be in repose and listen to specific music. This would be to activate the specific nerve rami of the spinal chord—realising that each vertebrae of the spinal column has rami which lead to specific organs. The specific organ remedy would thus enter the subtle being, doing its task accordingly. A homoeopathic remedy—the similimum—is vibrations—this is acknowledged. But it is also colour or a hue, a musical note or harmonic chord to establish harmony, which is health. One can only come to harmony in life by attuning to that which is harmonious. Discord does not heal, similars do.
Would it be so simple as to take a specific tuning fork and vibrate one note through the human frame, to open the organism and the soul to healing? Would it be the song of the Blackbird or its cousins in the thrush family that would long reign over the ever more vibrant spring as we all come to sing Alleluia? It is birdsong and the life forces! Man is music and music heals—open yourself to this.
This article by Cornelis van Dalen is a reprint from New Physis Newsletter, 2006.
i. Reverend F.O. Morris, British Birds (London: Webb & Bower Ltd., 1985): 135.
ii. Stanley King (Ed.), A Pilgrimage with the Animals (Maidstone, Kent: The Seekers Trust, 1982).
iii. Stanley King (Ed.), A Pilgrimage with the Animals (Maidstone, Kent: The Seekers Trust, 1982): 35-37.
iv. Nexus New Times Magazine published Internationally – see www.nexusmagazine.com
v. Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Soil, as quoted from the chapter on Sonic Bloom found on www.sonicbloom.com/articles.
vi. Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring, the seminal work discussing pesticides in agriculture.
vii. Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Soil, as quoted from the chapter on Sonic Bloom found on www.sonicbloom.com/articles.
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