Composed and Produced by Sami El-Enany
Owlman performed by Joe Winnsmith
String necklace performed by David Denyer
Birdsong performed by Jessica Winter
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 3
Part tone poem and part narrative reimagining of Remedios Varo’s painting of the same name, Creation of the Birds by Sami El-Enany is a fantastical exploration of the metamorphosis from an abstract idea to a finished artwork. Varo’s painting depicts an anthropomorphic owl sitting at a desk, drawing a series of birds. After being drawn, the birds are imbued with starlight refracted from a magnifying lens in the owl’s other hand and come to life, taking flight out of a window into the night.
El-Enany chose to focus on three main aspects for his Creation of the Birds, the Owl as the creator, their tool - the string instrument brush that hangs from their neck, and the very birds that are worked into existence. El-Enany sent a microphone to Joe Winnsmith, an avid conservationist and bird enthusiast in a small village in Scotland, to play the part of the Owl. They also devised a system of personifying and biographing the birds that would be conjured to life by the Owl. For the magical stringed instrument, El-Enany decided to use an entirely custom-tuned and prepared hammered dulcimer to create a unique sound that would not be recognisable to a listener. With violinist David Denyer, he created a palette of improvised bowing, plucking and hammering techniques to embody the characteristics of the birds. Finally, for the birds themselves, El-Enany slowed down field recordings of birds to allow them to be 'mimicked' by a human voice. Working with vocalist Jessica Winter, the recording of the human voice is then sped up to create the sense that these birds were being ushered from a metaphysical plane into our very world, no longer immaterial, now palpable and real.
El-Enany’s Creation of the Birds is about the private life of an artist, the origins of inspiration, and is an ode to the personalities of beautiful birds and the landscapes they inhabit.