by Maren Rawlings
On my walk, if I come round the corner quietly I find the path through the park is occupied by a flock of galahs and tufted (native) pigeons. The galahs greet me raucously and fly into the pines but the pigeons stubbornly walk ahead of me in single file with short busy steps like matrons making for the bed linen department in Boxing Day sale. Finally the one at the back takes to the wing with a high, soft fluted cry and lands at the front of the formation as they turn off the path and then stop to look at me with a disapproving air.
My mind goes back to a teacher in secondary school with a grey high French roll just like a pigeon tuft. Her legs, under her ample “pouter” torso, were thin and bird like and she moved with the same strutting business. On her way from Assembly to classes she would sing with the honesty of a deeply religious woman. Her mind, however, was not tidy, so that we would come from reedy renditions of “Brightest and best of the suns of the morning, Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid…” to hear her intoning “Time like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away, They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day”. Phew, thank goodness we were daughters, we laughed, ignoring her spinster state, a fault no doubt, of someone’s son.
My sister-in-law, a lorikeet, can not only sing, but she can play the piano at the same time (even standing up), so when she disappears to “practise” there is no possibility of recalling her from the realms of angels.
Music, it is said, originated probably with the imitation of bird calls. There is evidence that perception of the octave might be shared among species, but the number of distinct notes between that tonal recurrence is a matter of culture or taste. Music of itself is not judged to be positive or negative, although particular assortments of notes may not be pleasing (especially when my husband sings). It can be a subversive and highly satisfying mode of expression.
The first song I taught my granddaughter, “Cry baby bunting, Daddy’s gone a-hunting, Gone to catch a rabbit skin to put the baby bunting in”, was my childish response to having to procure and prepare meals for my ethically vegetarian son-in-law. I knew he had the higher moral ground!
Give the galahs and other birds a serve of their own
Maren Rawlings is a fabulously diverse educator and music devotee. She has taught at city and country schools including a 22-year stint at MLC, Melbourne. She has lectured in psychology at RMIT University and Melbourne Uni, written Psychology textbooks and, in 2011, graduated PhD in “Humour at Work” at Swinburne University where she currently tutors.
Maren is President of the Star Chorale, a community choir and this year they sing Verdi’s Requiem with the Zelman Orchestra.
Photo Source: Unsourced