Commissions Exhibitions Wildlife

Museum Metamorphosis- The Lyre bird


18 July 2013

A sketch of the Lyre bird showing the notion of metamorphosis and symmetry
A sketch of the Lyre bird showing the notion of metamorphosis and symmetry

For the Museum Metamorphosis project artists were asked to select an object to inspire new artwork, as part of New Walk Museum & Art Galleries permanent collections. I choose the Lyre bird, because of its fantastic ability to perfectly mimic other birds and even mechanical sounds. This proposal has been accepted by The School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, and will be exhibited (at the School of Museum Studies) from 26 September – 10 February 2014. The selected artists met today to discuss their proposals and to select a case to install their artwork.

The Lyre bird is famous for its extraordinary skills in mimicry and the most accomplished songster of any bird, developing its repertoire with calls ‘borrowed’ from at least 20 other species of bird; and more impressively being able to perfectly mimic the sound of camera shutters, chainsaws and car alarms!

A sketch of the Lyre bird showing the notion of metamorphosis and symmetry
A sketch of the Lyre bird showing the notion of metamorphosis and symmetry

Concept of ‘Metamorphosis’

Its song range is complex and elaborate, totalling around 100, but I will concentrate of the four calls during courtship; including sounds familiar to an 80s video game, a ruler being twanged and a mixture of repetitive loud sharp short calls and buzzing sounds. The image of the lyre bird will reflect this with feather colour and shape being replaced with a visual interpretation of its calls. Through interpreting birdsong with drawings and sonogram software, I’m able to visualise the pitch and volume of a sound, a technique I’ve been using since January 2013. The environment around the bird will reflect its ability to mimic artificial and mechanical sounds by replacing a forest with a city.

Lucy Stevens is an artist whose environmental soundscapes and visual art investigates the relationship between humanity and nature.

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