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Why do the birds 'change their voices'?

GUEST,Rigby 29 Mar 17 - 03:21 AM
Mo the caller 29 Mar 17 - 05:09 AM
Long Firm Freddie 29 Mar 17 - 05:11 AM
Nigel Parsons 29 Mar 17 - 05:41 AM
Steve Shaw 29 Mar 17 - 06:06 AM
Steve Shaw 29 Mar 17 - 06:06 AM
GUEST 29 Mar 17 - 01:06 PM
meself 29 Mar 17 - 02:16 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Mar 17 - 02:38 PM
Thompson 29 Mar 17 - 04:05 PM
Thompson 29 Mar 17 - 04:10 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Mar 17 - 04:33 PM
Thompson 29 Mar 17 - 05:27 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Mar 17 - 06:21 PM
Steve Shaw 29 Mar 17 - 06:37 PM
Howard Jones 30 Mar 17 - 02:54 PM
gnu 31 Mar 17 - 12:32 PM
GUEST 31 Mar 17 - 07:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Mar 17 - 10:38 PM
Seamus Kennedy 01 Apr 17 - 12:30 AM
DaveRo 01 Apr 17 - 02:58 AM
GUEST 01 Apr 17 - 04:10 PM
Mo the caller 02 Apr 17 - 10:45 AM
Nigel Parsons 03 Apr 17 - 08:09 AM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Apr 17 - 10:13 AM
Senoufou 03 Apr 17 - 12:03 PM
Jack Campin 03 Apr 17 - 02:23 PM
Thompson 04 Apr 17 - 04:11 AM
Steve Shaw 04 Apr 17 - 06:35 AM
Jack Campin 04 Apr 17 - 07:17 AM
Thompson 04 Apr 17 - 01:38 PM
GUEST 05 Apr 17 - 04:29 AM
GUEST,Roving Troubadour 29 May 17 - 02:44 AM
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Subject: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 03:21 AM

This line occurs in several traditional English songs, notably The Banks of the Sweet Primroses. Is it just an archaic way of saying that the birds are singing, or does it have some deeper significance?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 05:09 AM

The only bird I know who changes a call (according to rhyme at least) is the cockoo
"The cuckoo comes in April, he sings his song in May, he changes his tune in the middle of June, in July he flies away"
According to an RSPB forum
"The cuckoo changes its call in speed and tone as the breeding season progresses. In the early part of the Spring it is faster and higher and later on it is slow and drops in tone. Great to hear at any time though and something to treasure in your memory for the winter months."

I'm not a bird expert and haven't noticed this for myself. You would think that if true for one bird it might be true for others. But that doesn't seem to be what the song is talking about.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Long Firm Freddie
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 05:11 AM

Apparently the same species of bird can have variations to their song according to their geographic location. So I suppose the young lady in the Banks of Sweet Primroses who wants to disappear to some lonesome valley would find the birds singing a different tune. The reference to the birds changing their voices reinforces the remoteness and seclusion she seeks. A similar verse appears in some versions of Peggy Gordon and I imagine that the birds singing differently to indicate remoteness is an attractive concept that's led to this being a floating verse.

LFF


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 05:41 AM

Mo's comments are very reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's "April, come she will":

April, come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain
May, she will stay
Resting in my arms again
June, she'll change her tune
In restless walks she'll prowl the night
July, she will fly
And give no warning to her flight
August, die she must
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September, I remember
A love once new has now grown old


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 06:06 AM

Robins, change their song as winter moves into spring. The winter song has been described as more mournful, but the song becomes more perky and upbeat as summer gets nearer.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 06:06 AM

That comma wasn't my idea!


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 01:06 PM

It just means they sing. Like change ringing, except without the bells.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: meself
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 02:16 PM

Now, what is "change ringing", with or without bells?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 02:38 PM

Such language comes down from the 18thc theatres and pleasure gardens. Flowery language in abundance with no real depth of meaning. It isn't really worth trying to read too much into such language. If you have had to plough through thousands of such pieces in order to find a few gems you'd know what I mean.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Thompson
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 04:05 PM

Twas early, early all in the spring
The birds did whistle, and sweetly did sing
Changing their song from tree to tree
And the song they sang was Old Ireland Free.

I've noticed birds changing their call - they'll be high in one tree going weep weep and then they'll flutter to another and say tereu-tereu-tereu, and so on.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Thompson
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 04:10 PM

Dammit! "Changing their notes from tree to tree. Gom!


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 04:33 PM

Okay, let's put it another way. (Just call me an old romantic, not!)
Some birds change their song constantly, others have a very limited repertoire. It can all sound very nice, but what is the significance of mentioning this in song? Poetic filler?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Thompson
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 05:27 PM

People write about what's around them; people whose whole life is out in the fields notice birds.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 06:21 PM

I have song birds in my garden and I listen and appreciate every day. I also write songs but wouldn't dream of filling them out with mentions of this. I also understand when a particular bird is symbolically representing something else, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 29 Mar 17 - 06:37 PM

It's the season of birdsong. Just relish it while you can. Bad farming practices and global warming are threatening our songbirds, and my hearing is going fast. There isn't a poet on the planet who can interpret birdsong for us as well as the birds. Carpe diem!


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 30 Mar 17 - 02:54 PM

Guest, "change ringing" is a system of ringing peals of church bells. It appears to be a peculiarly British in origin although it has been exported to other parts of the world, and requires the bells to be hung in a particular way.

Each bell is tuned to a different note, and each time through the order they are played changes in a pre-arranged pattern known as a 'method'. These have rather glorious names such as Grandsire Triple or Plain Bob Minor. A full peal comprises thousands of changes and lasts several hours.

Changes may also be rung on handbells, which is a relief for the neighbours.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: gnu
Date: 31 Mar 17 - 12:32 PM

Being 'bird brained', I can offer the following which may or may not fit each intention/situation. Bird 'songs' or 'notes' are, of course, varied and such can be infused into lyrics to paint a picture. As one example, our Blue Jays have been singing spring songs as of late. That is to say, the males are looking for mates.

Was this information helpful?... or useless as per usual?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Mar 17 - 07:49 PM

Howartd Jones: exactly. Change ringing is what churches do to sing. Voice changing is what birds do to sing (in some English folk songs). Both are peculiar to English tradition. In other words, where's the mystery?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Mar 17 - 10:38 PM

That comma wasn't my idea!

What comma? Do you mean the apostrophe? I rather too it you were abbreviating "exchange" to " 'change "- which could in some cases be what birds "changing their song" might actually mean. I mean the way birdsong is sometimes made up of call and response. The kind of thing I imagine Coleridge meant in The Ancient Mariner when he wrote

Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 01 Apr 17 - 12:30 AM

Maybe they're tired of singing in one key and want to modulate. "Hold that note and change the key."


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: DaveRo
Date: 01 Apr 17 - 02:58 AM

The word 'change' in change ringing comes from the way two bells change places in the order they sound. So if they start in the order 1-2-3-4-5-6 bells 2 & 3 can change places (2 slows down a bit, 3 speeds up a bit) to produce 1-3-2-4-5-6. That's a 'change'.

In 'call changes' these changes are called out by a conductor, calling "2 to 3", somewhat like a dance.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Apr 17 - 04:10 PM

"The word 'change' in change ringing comes from the way two bells change places in the order they sound. "

Yes we know. But applied to birds it's poetry. It's a simmily. Spell it out - birds "change their voices" like churches "ring changes". Birds don't actually pull on ropes or systematically work through 80000 possible combinations, but to the forlorn and rather guilty lover it there's a similarity between the joyous sound of church bells and the sound of birds singing. Bloody poetry? I thought folk singers knew about that crap.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 02 Apr 17 - 10:45 AM

Yes but Mudcatters change their topics too. Go where the conversation takes them. And are interested to learn what others can teach.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 03 Apr 17 - 08:09 AM

And suddenly I start seeing swallows and housemartins, which I haven't seen for several months . . .

"Why do birds suddenly appear?"


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Apr 17 - 10:13 AM

What's the Brexit line on these foreign birds who turn up and eat our British worms and insects?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Senoufou
Date: 03 Apr 17 - 12:03 PM

I'm a member of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and their page about robins says, "The autumn song is more subdued and melancholy in its tone, while the spring song is powerful, confident and upbeat."


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Apr 17 - 02:23 PM

I figured the answer had to be somewhere in Francesca Greenoak's "All the Birds of the Air", an encyclopædic book on British bird folklore. But it's arranged strictly by species with no index covering cross-species issues - you'd have to read it cover to cover and I don't have time.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Thompson
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 04:11 AM

We are way less aware of nature than we used to be. We're out gardening for a couple of hours a day, certainly, but we don't (mostly) live in the open, it's not our workplace as it was for former generations; those of us for whom it is encounter it through the glass walls of a tractor, the sounds drowned out by motors.

We don't walk from place to place at all hours of day and night; we don't drive cattle on foot to the market; we don't find our food by trapping and fishing.

Children, especially, live indoor lives - incredibly so compared even to my childhood, much less when compared to 100 years ago, when most of the songs we're considering were written. I don't know when I last saw a kid up a tree - when I was a child most of my time seemed to be spent dangling dangerously out of high branches, cycling, swimming, running, skipping, playing games of pretend necessitating much outdoor activity.

And so we haven't noticed - as Rachel Carson foretold - the gradual decline in bees and butterflies and animals; the spring has become silent for many of us, and it's happened while we were indoors.

One result for humans is the worldwise increase in short sight; if children aren't outdoors for a great deal of time during the two or three years preceding puberty, their eyeballs lock into the short focus that is myopia.

Other results are worldwide epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, depression and possibly even psychosis.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 06:35 AM

One of the saddest and most outrageous things I've heard about lately is the illegal trapping of thousands of migrating songbirds by Cypriots on the British military base at Dhekelia in Cyprus. I know that area slightly and have walked around the whole base and there are lots of wild areas. How is that allowed to happen?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 07:17 AM

It's allowed to happen in Malta because they had a referendum on it and the trigger-happy xenophobes were able to force through a narrow win. Slaughtering endangered species is Malta's version of Brexit. I'd guess Cypriot wildlife politics works in much the same way.

It's just as illegal to kill raptors in Scotland - the issue here is relic feudalism, with big landowners killing them to improve the bag for their fat-cat hunter tourist clients.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: Thompson
Date: 04 Apr 17 - 01:38 PM

And in Kerry several attempts to reintroduced eagles have been downed by troglodyte farmers poisoning them.


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Apr 17 - 04:29 AM

I live in the country and don't have double glazing. Its very obvious that the overall *amount* of bird song changes through the year.   I can quite see a poet assuming (rightly or wrongly) that the nature of the songs changed as well and country people being aware that in some cases (including cuckoo and robin mentioned above) it did.

Is interpreting a folk song on the basis of "I haven't noticed this so is the composer is making it up or referring to something of deep significance" normal practice?


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Subject: RE: Why do the birds 'change their voices'?
From: GUEST,Roving Troubadour
Date: 29 May 17 - 02:44 AM

It's very obviously a contraction of the word "exchange"; a shorthand and poetic way of saying they sing to each other. In the same way the word "change" used in the context of money doesn't mean alter, but refers to an exchange of coins and goods, or notes for coins.

Some people just have to make things more complicated than they really are.


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