Hawaiian birds inspire educational music program
Science, conservation and art will join together in the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds, an educational and music program that will premiere before Hawaii’s students this week.
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Science, conservation and art will join together in the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds, an educational and music program that will premiere before Hawaii’s students on Wednesday.
The multidisciplinary program will feature music and visuals inspired by the plight of Hawaiian birds and will explore themes such as extinction, conservation and cultural significance. The Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra will premiere the program at Blaisdell Concert Hall in a special children’s concert.
University of Hawaii at Manoa music professor Takuma Itoh, who headed up the musical part of the symphony and composed one of its six movements, said the idea came from Melissa Price, a professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at UH. She heard about a musician using music to explain scientific concepts and suggested Itoh try something similar. He got his colleagues at Manoa as well as UH-West Oahu involved, and scientists and artists were asked to create informational and visual components to go along with the music.
“We wanted to make it an educational concert that would teach kids about different concepts of Hawaiian birds, from how they got here, why they’re so amazing, to why they’re in trouble,” Itoh said.
Birds that were significant in Hawaiian culture, like the i‘iwi and ‘elepaio, will also be featured, along with prehistoric birds that went extinct long ago. “There’s some very fun-looking birds,” Itoh said, referring to the prehistoric birds. “One team is doing a piece about owls that were 3 feet tall and walked on land.”
Itoh called his movement “the saddest one.” He based it on the song of the o‘o, recorded on Kauai in the late 1980s in what is considered to be the call of the last survivor.
“(The o‘o) has this amazing bird call, a song that the males and females would sing to each other. It’s quite remarkable, very pure sounding, melodious,” he said. “It’s not a chirp, chirp, chirp. There are a lot of notes. … Each bird would have a different kind of call.”
Other composition professors working on the project are Jon Magnussen and Daniel Houglum of UH-West Oahu; and Donald Womack, Thomas Osborne and Michael-Thomas Foumai of UH-Manoa. The academics working on the project are Sheldon Plentovich, Megan Laut and Joshua Fisher of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Molly Hagemann of Bishop Museum; and Noelani Puniwai, professor of Hawaiian studies at UH. The artists are Pawel Nuckowski, Jamie Allen, Kayla Abalos, Jeanine Higa Laurie Sumiye .
While only one performance has been scheduled, the symphony hopes to take it around the state, said Jonathan Parrish, executive director of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra.
“We’re excited because in one program, we’re going to get to play compositions by six different Hawaii composers,” he said.
For information, visit symphonyofhawaiianbirds.com.