I had long wanted to write a piece for flute and electronics, and thought that the most appealing sound source for electronic manipulation would be the flute itself. But in assisting a biologist in her research project, I came across the birdcalls of the Panamanian bay wren. The project involved electronic manipulation of the alternating female and male calls, which interlock and usually alternate four times.
In playing with the sounds beyond the needs of the project, I was struck by how different our perceptions must be; in their own register, the wrens calls sound to human ears to be not much more than a noisy chirp. Slowed down and transposed closer to the center of our hearing range, they reveal a world of expression, with subtle melodic and rhythmic nuances not otherwise suspected. Presumably these nuances mean something to them, at the least, they do seem to learn them from each other with great precision. Perhaps Bay Wrens find their calls expressive, perhaps even something like emotional. Perhaps the sound of human voices is just a mildly annoying and inarticulate rumble to them.
In Flutecry, the bay wrens are heard at the beginning of the piece, three octaves lower than in life, and 8 times slower . Through the piece, the call is transformed in many ways. The piece closes with the 4 second original sample from which all the electronic sounds are derived.
By turns, the flute comments on the birds, imposes a dancelike rhythm, and joins them in song.