Lazy Luddite Log

10.9.07

The Lyrebird

Everyone feels lacking in ability at times. I feel this way every now and then while engaged in choral singing (particularly as there are many I sing with who are just supurb). This feeling can affect my motivation but I get past that most of the time. It helps that others are supportive. The following bit of fiction was written over 12 months ago - at which time I was much more intensely aware of my own singing shortcomings - and was only shown to a handful of friends. Now however I feel like sharing this whimsical tale with the world. It was inspired by personal experience but departs from reality in all sorts of ways...

The Lyrebird was sifting through the mulch on the floor of the rainforest, hunting for worms and beetles, when he heard a marvellous chorus of sound echoing through the trees and ferns. He rose from his rummaging and, walking slowly over a hill, and under a fallen tree, he came across a flock of Bellbirds all chortling in wonderful unison. He stood on the ground, while they sat in tree branches and made a splendid racket, a deluge of sound, which filled the Lyrebird with a thrilling new sensation.

The Lyrebird was adept at imitation and, given repetitive exposure, could replicate almost any sound with unerring precision. He listened for a while to the Bellbirds and then attempted a mimicry of their timbre, tone and timing, with success. The Lyrebird fluffed his feathers with the joy that comes only from succeeding in something new. The Bellbirds seemed to accept the new voice added to theirs, and continued as if nothing had changed. That evening, the Lyrebird went back to his nook and fell into a very self-satisfied slumber.

The next day the Lyrebird returned to the clearing in which he had found the Bellbirds, and found them there still, preparing for more song. But this time something different happened. Some birds sang one note, while others sang another. This puzzled the Lyrebird, but, fortunately, one of those two notes was the same as the one that had been sung the previous day, so he simply did then what he had done before, and all was well. But then the Bellbirds further divided into groups singing four different notes, then eight, then sixteen, or so it seemed to the befuddled Lyrebird.

Furthermore, the Bellbirds started chiming at different times in evermore dazzling patterns, and the Lyrebird was so stumped by this performance that he began drawing on his old repertoire of imitations. He began with her ever-useful Magpie, but that did not seem to fit, so he then turned to the strident Kookaburra, but that too did not at all complement the harmony of the Bellbirds. He then resorted, in quick succession, to the raucous Koala, the staccato Camera Shutter, the rattling Chain Saw, and finally, in desperation, the Shot Gun. At this moment, however, the Bellbirds as one flew out of the clearing, leaving the Lyrebird all alone. He spent a very long night back at his nook, pondering what had happened, and how he had erred.

The next day the Lyrebird very resolutely set about his everyday work of grazing for invertebrate culinary morsels, concentrating on his task with mock relish, hoping to convince himself that this was all he had ever wanted, and that nothing surpassed the delight of munching on a crunchy cockroach or a juicy slug. He did hear the Bellbirds off in the distance, but ignored this, trusting that, in time, the rich crisp chiming chorus would fade, for him, into the ambient murmur of the forest. Eventually, the alluring sound ceased, and the Lyrebird felt relief mixed with a disquieting sense of loss.

It was some time after that the Lyrebird became aware of the Bellbirds congregating in the trees above and around him. The Lyrebird, however, continued about his food-hunting chore, till two of those gathered flew down and perched on either side of him. He stood very still, wondering what would happen next. These birds then began singing at the Lyrebird, and they were singing the same note. This they did till the Lyrebird could resist no longer, and began singing with them, tentatively, then with greater confidence. It was only now that others began singing, firstly just the one note, then other notes, then even more notes, but always with the two birds singing in unison with the Lyrebird.

After that the Lyrebird sang regularly with the Bellbirds and sounded for all the world like just another one of them. Except on occasion, just to keep things interesting, he would throw a bit of Magpie or Kookaburra into the mix, but never again in the company of the Bellbirds did he show off his superb Shotgun impersonation.

This has since been published in the O-Week 2008 edition of Lust Of Life by MonUCS.

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