The Currency of Birdsong

Dr. Tamsin Kerr by LisaSista Photography

The Currency of Birdsong

Sandra Conte

1 October 2013

The Currency of Birdsong project commenced with an October 2012 invitation to 32 artists to participate in an artistic research project to culminate in the open day at the Cooroora Institute with workshops, performances, talks, exhibition, writings, and images, as well as a catalogue documenting the collaborations between this material, sound, and thought research. Talk and performances, a demonstration, shared lunch and workshops took place on World Environment Day, 9 June 2013 as part of the Floating Land Festival’s satellite event in Cooroy.

Writer and Cooroora Institute Co-Director, Dr Tamsin Kerr, was also involved in the parallel Balance Unbalance International Conference 2013 in the Noosa Biosphere, where she introduced artist sessions and presented an excerpt from her paper, ‘The Currency of Birdsong,’ to an audience in awe of her whimsical, poignant and articulate tale:-

What if we used wild birdsong as an indicator of success and status? Instead of asking about jobs or money, we might ask of any process: “yes, but does it produce birdsong?” The currency of birdsong would be seasonal, diverse, and biogeographic; bird habitats would be more important than banks; value would be tied to the ritual of everyday’s dawning and twilight; outside life connected to local places.

We use money as an easy exchange mechanism for goods and services, but why does it also buy us value and status? The shared resource of birdsong might make us all rich, placing value upon the ecoregion, the real, and the wild. Birdsong has proven human health benefits, links us to nature’s everyday with immediacy, and offers beauty in a broken world.

Moving slowly, another soap opera emerges in the daily dramas of birdlife; we recognise alarm calls, and then see the hawk. The boasting egos and the gentle reassurances might form the intent, but there is magic, artistry, and pure joy in the song. In listening, we find a natural stillness of place, and a wilder power than that which we derive from our limited human economies.

– Dr Tamsin Kerr, Cooroora Institute

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