birdsongs of the mesozoic

from the Cuneiform website, August 2012:

"BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC is a four-piece electric new music ensemble exploring and expanding the boundaries of contemporary music. Established in 1980 as a side project to the Boston post-avant punk band MISSION OF BURMA, the group has earned wide critical praise and international recognition for its innovative music; an unusual mix of classical, rock, minimalism, jazz and free-form sound.

Birdsongs' origins can be traced back to the 1978 breakup of the post-punk band MOVING PARTS, which included ERIK LINDGREN (vocals, keyboards) and ROGER MILLER(vocals, guitar). Miller went on to form the seminal post-punk group Mission of Burma (1979 1983; 2002 present), while Lindgren concentrated on production work in his home recording studio.

Though the breakup had been amiable, Lindgren felt the need for an act of overt reconciliation, and in late 1980, he offered free studio time to his former bandmate. Miller had just written his first solo piano pieces in years, and jumped at the offer. Lindgren volunteered to provide some keyboard overdubs. Given that musical differences had led to the breakup of their earlier band, both musicians were surprised at the success of the collaboration. Burma tape loop artist MARTIN SWOPE was then enlisted for further overdub work on electric guitar.

The recording project might have ended there had not Boston's Modern Method record label approached Miller and asked for a Burma track for a compilation album. Miller instead offered "Pulse Piece" from the sessions, naming the makeshift group "Birdsongs of the Mesozoic," a reference to a BIRDSONGS OF AMERICA album that Swope had sampled during the sessions and to then-new theories about the dinosaur ancestry of birds (Miller having been a dinosaur aficionado as a young child).

Modern Method also asked Miller if Birdsongs could perform at the album's 1981 record release party. For this performance, a lineup was assembled consisting of Miller on piano, Lindgren on synthesizer, Swope on guitar, and RICK SCOTT (a previous bandmate of Miller's) on electric organ, with all members doubling on percussion instruments.

While there had been no intention to play more than the one gig, audience response was so strong that further shows were booked. The ensemble became a significant side project for Miller and Swope, and recorded a six-song eponymous EP (virtually the entire repertoire at the time) for Burma's label Ace Of Hearts. Birdsongs opened for Burma at least once, and Burma's drummer PETER PRESCOTT contributed to Birdsongs recordings and performances.

When Miller's tinnitus worsened in 1982, the existence of Birdsongs as a quieter alternative was a significant factor in Miller's decision to end Mission of Burma in 1983. In fact, he stopped writing Burma material and began writing more aggressive material for Birdsongs, such as "Shiny Golden Snakes" (which became the lead track of Birdsong's first full-length album, Magnetic Flip.) Swope, Scott, and especially Lindgren also began composing original material. 

Birdsongs interpreted occasional cover songs, which demonstrated the breadth of its influences: An adaptation of STRAVINSKY's The Rite of Spring, the theme songs to two animated television shows (ROCKY & BULLWINKLE and THE SIMPSONS) and two different versions of BRIAN ENO's "Sombre Reptiles."

In 1987, Miller left the group to concentrate on his MAXIMUM ELECTRIC PIANO project which he had recently begun as a side project to Birdsongs. Ann Arbor expatriate, saxophonist / keyboardist STEVE ADAMS of YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD SAXOPHONE QUARTET (who had shared many memorable bills with Birdsongs) stepped up to fill the spot. With Adams onboard, Birdsongs' music had a new jazz element to its sound. Within six months, however, Adams was offered a position in the ROVA SAXOPHONE QUARTET and was replaced by saxophonist / flautist / keyboardist KEN FIELD. Guitarist / composer MICHAEL BIERYLO joined when Swope left in 1993.

Birdsongs has released eleven CDs of original material for the Rykodisc, Cuneiform, NEARfest, Ace of Hearts, and PEL labels. The group has also extensively toured the US, Canada, and Europe in their three-decades of activity. Birdsongs has also collaborated with NPR correspondent/Duplex Planet editor DAVID GREENBERGER on the show 1001 REAL APES, which was released on CD in 2006. The ensemble collaborated with Atlanta vocalist ORAL MOSES on Extreme Spirituals which was also released in 2006.

In 2009, Cuneiform released the 2-CD retrospective Dawn of the Cycads which contains Birdsongs' complete Ace of Hearts recordings circa 1983 '87 plus unreleased material. This release was supported by an East Coast tour that summer which included original member Roger Miller. "




  birdsongs of the mesozoic: s/t
    (1983, 12"ep, usa, ace of hearts)
1 birdsongs of the mesozoic: magnetic flip
    (1984, lp, usa, ace of hearts)
2 birdsongs of the mesozoic: beat of the mesozoic
    (1986, ep, usa, ace of hearts)
3 birdsongs of the mesozoic: sonic geology
    (1988, cd, usa, rykodisc)
4 birdsongs of the mesozoic: faultline
    (1989, cd, usa, cuneiform)
5 birdsongs of the mesozoic: pyroclastics
    (1991, cd, usa, cuneiform)
6 birdsongs of the mesozoic: the fossil record
    (1993, cd, usa, cuneiform)
7 birdsongs of the mesozoic: dancing on a'a
    (1995, cd, usa, cuneiform)
8 birdsongs of the mesozoic: petrophonics
    (2000, cd, usa, cuneiform)
9 birdsongs of the mesozoic: the iridium controversy
    (2003, cd, usa, cuneiform)
10 birdsongs of the mesozoic: 2001 live birds
    (2004, cd, usa, cuneiform)
11 birdsongs of the mesozoic: 1001 real apes
    (2006, cd, usa, cuneiform)
12 birdsongs of the mesozoic: extreme spirituals
    (2006, cd, usa, cuneiform)
  birdsongs of the mesozoic: dawn of the cycads
    (2008, 2cd, usa, cuneiform) = the first four albums + bonus material

cuneiform274.jpg (29657 bytes)





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