Mistress of the Mix: For the Birds

I had a Failure To Launch moment recently. You remember that movie, with Matthew McConnaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker about commitmentphobes? I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to commitment (in fact sometimes I’m so committed to things that I oughta be committed). Nope, that’s not the part of the movie that I’ve been identifying with lately. It’s the subplot that revolves around Zoey Deschanel’s character, who’s being tortured throughout the film by the call of a very active mockingbird right outside her bedroom window.

Well, I’ve got a mockingbird, and it’s driving me a little bit bonkers.

This summer has, so far, been pretty mild. But it’s still hot enough that I need a little breeze. The house is just too hot and stagnant otherwise. So I don’t often sleep with the windows shut. But lately not only have I been doing exactly that (and sweltering because of it), I’ve been considering earplugs because of one single, solitary bird that lives in my backyard.

This bird, just like the one in Failure To Launch, doesn’t have many social graces, and certainly doesn’t respect the city ordinance requiring that one keep the noise down from 10pm to 7am. More often than not lately, I have been jolted out of a perfectly lovely sleep by the numerous calls of this bird at around 4am. To quote Deschanel’s character, “What the hell kind of devil bird chirps at night?!”And the mockingbird continues, on and on, until long after I’ve left for work, serenading the neighborhood with at least 15 or more separate bird calls.

That’s the thing about mockingbirds. They mock. (Here’s the part where I’m going to get into trouble). I’m talking about male mockingbirds. Unlike males of the homosapien variety, they’re very good listeners. But just like those pesky homosapien males, mockingbirds are constantly on the prowl for a female companion. And females are suckers for males who know how to sing a wide repertoire of songs. Some mockingbirds have an arsenal of over 150 calls with which to woo a mate.

I feel sorry for this mockingbird, because although he has quite a songbook, I think he’s still on his own. So he keeps singing away. And it’s not just other bird calls. Like the raven (which can imitate the sound of a rain drop plopping into a puddle or a crying baby), mockingbirds will imitate other sounds they hear frequently. Mine imitates car alarms, the chirp of a smoke detector in need of a new battery, and most amazingly, croaking frogs. It’s the incessant smoke detector that really gets me. Really gets to me.

This bird has really wormed its way into my brain. I’m not going to head down to Jones Fort and try to buy myself a 12 gauge shotgun with just one shell to dispatch the bird in my backyard, although there are mornings when I want to throw open the back door and yell at it to Shaddup! (But what if it learned to imitate my extremely-annoyed-at-4-in-the-morning-voice? Then I’d really be in trouble.)

So here’s the weird thing. Lately, I’ve been pulling & playing music out of the JPR cd library that seems to contain a strangely large amount of bird-related themes. It’s not intentional, at least not on my part. I randomly chose a Mark O’Connor disc to play last week as I was putting back a Carl Orff work, and there it was…The Call of the Mockingbird. Then on Stravinsky’s birthday (same as my dad’s – June 17th), I wanted to play something to celebrate the occasion, and I realized I’d chosen The Firebird Suite.

I’m not beyond thinking that perhaps some kind of subliminal message has been worked into my subconscious. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation if you want, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my music choices lately (I even played The Wild Dove by Dvorak and On Hearing The First Cuckoo of Spring by Delius) are actually being orchestrated by one very sly bird who’s been repeating messages to me over and over again as I innocently slumber. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Enjoy today’s playlist, my friends. It’s totally for the birds. I’m actually including two of them. Because one in the hand is worth two in the… oh nevermind. One is for the Classical fans (and includes the actual music I’ve been playing recently on Siskiyou Music Hall on the Classics & News Service of Jefferson Public Radio, while the other represents more modern music, the kind of playlist I might be sharing if I was hosting Open Air on the Rhythm & News Service of Jefferson Public Radio.

Just a little footnote before I go. This morning, I woke up at 4:15. To the sound of silence. No call of the mockingbird. No frogs. No smoke detector. Yet I’ve gotten so used to being jolted awake at this time every morning that I was up anyway. And you know what? I missed the little birdbrain. I’m sure he’ll be back tomorrow. At least I hope so. But don’t tell tell him I said that.

For The Birds – Classical Playlist                          For The Birds – Rhythm Playlist

Classical Playlist

  1. Call Of The Mockingbird – Mark O’Connor
  2. Swan Song – Franz Schubert
  3. The Wild Dove – Antonin Dvorak
  4. On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring – Frederic Delius
  5. Cloud of Birds Polka – Emile Waldteufel
  6. The Swan – Camille Saint-Saens
  7. Chant du Rossignol – Igor Stravinsky
  8. Adolf von Henselt – If I were a bird
  9. Hens & Cocks – Camille Saint-Saens
  10. Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky
  11. The Nightengale – Natalie Dessay
  12. The Nightengale – Isabelle Moretti
  13. Pan et Les Oiseaux – Jules Mouquet
Rhythm Playlist
  1. Mockingbird – James Taylor & Carly Simon
  2. 3 Little Birds – Bob Marley
  3. Blackbird – Sarah McLachlan
  4. Mystery Angel -Xavier Rudd
  5. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  6. Birdland – Manhattan Transfer
  7. Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Darin
  8. Mr. Meadowlark – Bing Crosby & Johnny Mercer
  9. Songbird – Eva Cassidy
  10. Carvin’ The Bird – Charlie Parker
  11. A Nightengale Sang in Barkley Square – Manhattan Transfer
  12. Bluebird – Sara Bareilles
  13. I Am Like A Bird – Nelly Furtado
  14. Hummingbird – Wilco
  15. Bluebird – Christina Perri
  16. Ethiobirds – Andrew Bird
  17. Bird Song – Florence & The Machine
  18. When Doves Cry – Prince & The Revolution
  19. Birds – Elton John
  20. Little Bird – Eels
  21. Raven – Jewel
  22. Little Bird – Annie Lennox
  23. Fly Robin Fly – Silver Convention
  24. Fly Like An Eagle – Steve Miller Band
  25. Two Birds – G. Love
  26. I Like Birds – The Eels
  27. Surfin Bird – The Trashmen

Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

18 Responses

  1. Avatar Scott says:

    I love this! Though I don't know much classical musical and feel compelled to listen to the first mix in particular for that very reason, I'd like to suggest two worthy additions to the second one: "For The Birds" by Juliana Hatfield (which is the first thing I thought of when I saw the title of the story), and "The Cuckoo" by (Andy Bird's friend, and a brilliant artist in her own right) Kristin Hersh.

    I love early mornings when I'm the only one awake, but not so much when annoying birds insist on breaking the pre-dawn silence—though in my neighborhood, crows are the issue. This has given me a wonderful idea: Load up the songs on an mp3 player, don the headphones, and enjoy the not-so-silence, which is better than getting worked up over the darn birds who would otherwise spoil my early-morning tranquility. Thanks, Valerie!

    • Avatar Scott says:

      Oops. That would be "Andrew" Bird, of course. And I can't even blame the birds this morning. Time for a cup of coffee…

      • Well I can still blame the bird. 5:15am (the days are getting shorter so quickly) on the dot. I have actually started to turn on the tv to old episodes of Will & Grace to lull me back to sleep, because the annoying voice of Karen drowns out the bird and somehow doesn't keep me awake. Weird, I know.

  2. Avatar Andar says:

    We had a mockingbird that returned every spring for years. He specialization was construction equipment's back-up bell! We had to warn visitors, it sounded like a bull dozer was going to back into the bedroom.

    • I'm listening to him right now out in the back yard. Since I live in a neighborhood where a lot of MD Imaging employees park while at work (they're not allowed to park in their own parking lot), this bird does a whole host of different car alarms. Also, you know how when you lock your car with your remote but don't trust that your car actually locked, so you press the button again to get the reassuring double honk to let you know that yes indeedy your car IS locked? This bird does that too, in a variety of tones. I only just realized that this morning when he was directly outside my bedroom window. I think he knows I've been talking about him.

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    You had me laughing this morning, Valerie. That bird definitely sounds annoying, and there's nothing worse than being awakened before you're ready. You have such a fun way of telling the story-very entertaining. Thanks for the chuckles!

  4. Avatar Sophie says:

    Hilarious Val! What if you started playing music in your back yard? Would he start imitating it?

    • Valerie Ing-Miller Valerie Ing-Miller says:

      Egads! When I get really desperate and start doing that, I'll let you know how it turns out!

  5. Avatar Diana says:

    Valerie! Thanks for this Mega Mix Bird List but there is one I would add: White Bird by It's a Beautiful Day.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Diana. I love it when people make additions to the list! There are so many more songs that I wanted to add, but ended up whittling it down a little bit, and there were a few songs that weren't available on Grooveshark as well.

  6. Avatar Magnolia Neighborhoo says:

    Thank you, thank you…………..anything by Mark O'Connor, my hero!

  7. Avatar Dean Ing says:

    Can't be-bloody-LIEVE nobody's mentioned Respighi's Pines of Rome (or was it 'Fountains') with a long rossignol solo riff that might drive your mocker nuts trying to copy it.

  8. Avatar Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Dean . . . it's the PINES of Rome.

    Of course, the first thing that entered my mind when I saw the title, was Charlie "the Bird" Parker . . . . thank you for including at least one cut from him. But wait, nothing by The Byrds?

    • Valerie Ing-Miller Valerie Ing-Miller says:

      I had to whittle it down, Adrienne, and for that reason I also cut out a song from The Eagles and stick strictly to songs actually about birds, that included bird sounds (although I didn't use anything from Martin Denny) or had a bird in the title.

  9. An update: I've been sleeping better lately. My mockingbird quit singing early in the morning. At first I was afraid he'd met some horrible fate with one of the neighborhood cats, but then I saw him, just a few minutes ago, with a mate, flying around the neighbors back yard. So all that singing paid off, eventually, and we're all happy once again.