In 17th- and 18th-century Europe, composers turned to nature in search of musical novelty. One such individual was Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, a prolific French baroque composer and one of a few who made a living entirely outside the courtly world of Versailles. Le Concert Spirituel recorded his instrumental “ballet” for hurdy-gurdy, musette, winds and strings on the Naxos release entitled Ballets de village.
Another rustic instrument from the French baroque was the bagpipe, or “musette.” Duets for two musettes were a popular among amateur musicians in early 18th-century France. Jean-Christophe Maillard and Jean-Pierre van Hees perform “Les Impromptus de Fountainebleau” on the release, Oeuvres pour Musette.
Music composed in imitation of bird calls has been around for centuries. Perhaps the most famous example can be found in Handel’s “L’Allegro.” The King’s Consort performs “Sweet Bird,” on their Hyperion release entitled L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.
Another bird song frequently imitated is that of the nightingale. Jacob van Eyck wrote a work entitled “Engels Nachtegaeltie,” performed by recorder player Dan Laurin on the BIS release, Der Fluyten Lusthof.
Even Antonio Vivaldi wrote music in imitation of birds. His concerto, “Il Gardellino,” exists in no less than two versions. The first was scored for chamber ensemble comprised of flute, violin, and basso continuo. Janet See performs this version on the Harmonia Mundi release Vivaldi Flute Concertos (accompanied by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra).