🎻♫♪ – Cantus Arcticus by Einojuhani Rautavaara

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 40/501Title: Cantus Arcticus
Composer: Einojuhani Rautavaara
Nationality: Finnish

Thanks to the buzzing of a very persistent bumblebee – it was a bit of an early start today. Having finished the final episodes of Great Teacher Onizuka, I felt the need to lay down for a bit and try to relax to something a bit more classical and a little less high energy. So I pretty much pulled a classical piece at random and felt vindicated once the bird sounds started.

Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever heard anything quite like Cantus Arcticus. In summary, it is a short classical piece with three movements where prerecorded birdsong does a sweeping dance with the orchestra. Whilst the entire orchestra is used, this is predominantly a piece for the woodwind and strings sections; likely because of those instruments’ ability to create a flowing sound that provides a perfect environment for the birds.

The central figure of this classical piece is undeniably the birdsong, which was recorded at a bog in Northern Finland. The first movement (“The Bog”) is a free and chilled out piece where we take wing with the birds before being led into something more dark and mysterious (the second movement, called “Melancholy”). Then things get a bit more frantic in the final movement (“Swans Migrating”) as are lead to a subtly climactic finish that reminds me of some sections of The Rite of Spring.

This is not the first time I have heard a classical piece that uses sampling (Different Trains being one of them), but it still feels like an incredibly fresh idea to me. Where this is a first for me is that, when I close my eyes, I can imagine my own staged narrative. This is just such a vivid and beautifully done piece, which helps to demonstrate (at least to myself) that doing this list was a great idea.


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