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01684 773883

for piano
Goodmusic GM073

Catalogue Number: GM073

ISMN: 9790222281899

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Song of the Birds-nest Orchid image
The Song of the Bird's-Nest Orchid was written in 1982 for Reiko Isobe. It was the fifth to be written in a series of musical portraits of the 48 species of wild orchids in Britain and Ireland.

The Bird's-Nest Orchid, Neottia nidus-avis, so named because of the resemblance of its root system to a magpie's nest, is a saprophtye, living off decayed material from plants and animals. The roots are heavily infected with a mycorrhizal fungus which helps it absorb food from the rotting material (usually dead leaves). This robust orchid - up to 40cm high - is widely distributed throughout Northern regions of Europe and Asia - as far East as Siberia. It is a strange plant, to be found in deep shade in woodland, where practically nothing else will grow. It has virtually no chlorophyll and is therefore completely lacking in the greenness which one associates with normal plants. There are no true leaves, only brown, translucent scales up the stem. In fact the whole plant is honey-brown in colour and from a distance, looks as if it is dead. On closer inspection it is rather subtle and beautiful and has up to a hundred flowers with large yellow pollen masses, smelling pleasantly of honey. These attract small insects which pollinate them, though the plant also self-pollinates.

The Song takes us on a journey from initially noticing what looks like a dead plant, through to closer inspection of its finer details and realisation of the wider beauty of the plant in relation to its environment, to finally hearing the orchid's own song. We begin with a gloomy passacaglia. This is embroidered and eventually gathers pace and is developed to a powerful climax. We then - in a transitional section - reflect on the orchid in relation to the overhead canopy of trees with distant shafts of sunlight penetrating through it, before we finally hear the song of the orchid itself - as if from its own point of view.
Duration 14 minutes

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