In November 2020, throughout a contested election and lethal pandemic, a tiny Noticed-whet Owl was rescued from the Rockefeller Middle Christmas tree. Being very small (and politically unaffiliated), the owl spawned a minor media sensation. Amongst these entranced was New York-based music producer So Wylie.
On the time, Wylie didn’t suppose a lot about birds in her day-to-day life, however she’d at all times had a delicate spot for owls. She Googled the chicken and listened to its rhythmic, musical name. “I used to be like, that is form of hearth!” she says. “I instantly determined I used to be going to make a beat with it. I made it that afternoon.”
She composed a minute-long beat and posted a video of it on TikTok, pondering of it as a enjoyable one-off venture. However the on-line response was so enthusiastic that Wylie has stored at it. Now, her bird beat videos—that includes avian stars such because the Barred Owl, Hermit Thrush, and Common Potoo—have garnered an enthusiastic and rising fan base of birders.
Wylie works at Spotify’s Gimlet Media as a sound engineer for podcasts equivalent to Dissect and Crime Present, and as a producer for artists like Camille Belief. However she’s additionally an lively composer influenced by producers and artists who combine genres freely, together with Timbaland, OutKast, and The Gorillaz. Once you get all the way down to it, she says, chicken calls are like some other pattern: “The very first thing I’ll consider is like: What tempo does this recommend? I’ll see if any particular chords or key involves thoughts, and I’ll begin constructing [a beat] based mostly on that.”
Wylie had stumbled into the artwork of creating music from recorded birdsong. It’s an expansive style: In 1960, CBS Musical Director Jim Fassett reduce collectively ornithological discipline recordings to launch the experimental and eerie Symphony of the Birds. Wylie’s contemporaries embody: British musician Cosmo Shelldrake who has additionally explored mixing recorded chicken calls into instrumental compositions in Wake Up Calls, by way of sly and soothing tracks that use the voices of threatened British birds to comply with the passage of time; acoustic ecologist Ben Mirin, who releases beneath the title “DJ Ecotone” and whose work is funky and complicated, with beatboxing that weaves across the birdsong; and Indian music instructor A. J. Mithra, who composes synthy tracks drawing on the fauna of the subcontinent.
Wylie’s chicken beats are typically clean, distilled, and catchy—supporting the chicken’s vocals with out distorting them. However the movies are additionally compelling of their tangible pleasure and playfulness. Each begins with Wylie on her sofa, taking part in a chicken name. Her face wrinkles in shock or delight on the sound; pictures comply with of her composing at her keyboard, and of waveforms of the chicken name on audio applications, the decision repeating rhythmically over the motion. Lastly, the beat drops, with clips of the chicken intercut with Wylie bopping alongside to her newest creation. She intentionally buildings the movies to evoke the sensation of artistic discovery: A part of the enjoyable is seeing how Wylie reacts to the problem of no matter chicken will get thrown at her.
Lots of the birds Wylie has sampled thus far have been owls, together with the Eastern Screech-Owl, Boreal Owl, and Barn Owl, whose otherworldly hiss proved tough. She’s additionally been fielding recommendations from listeners. “The Japanese Whip-poor-will hive could be very robust,” Wylie says, laughing. “Additionally the Canyon Wren—lots of people have been very enthusiastic about that one. There are such a lot of birds that this might technically hold going ceaselessly, so I’m simply selecting whichever comes subsequent.” (Edit word: Wylie launched the Canyon Wren simply the opposite day. A overview from Audubon’s #birds Slack channel: “This is perhaps my favourite beat but.”)
Wylie has been shocked by the response to the movies on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram Reside. “The birding neighborhood was a lot extra highly effective than I had initially realized,” Wylie says. And whereas she’s been cautious about taking over area in a web-based neighborhood she’s nonetheless new to, she’s discovered the suggestions touching. “It’s simply introduced me a lot pleasure on such an in any other case very darkish and hard yr, and it’s identical to one thing I’ll always remember.”
She’s additionally turn into extra inquisitive about going birding herself, as soon as it’s safer to take action with others. “I’m going to should creep again into social life, clearly,” she says. “ However I do know the place to go and who to name if I wish to go see some birds now. ”
Wylie is toying with plans to increase her minute-long video chicken beats into an album, however that might be a long-term venture; there’s additionally the matter of legally clearing the chicken samples she makes use of, lots of which come from establishments just like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. But when she does find yourself promoting her work, any proceeds will probably be donated again into birding organizations, she says.
“This isn’t one thing I ever anticipated to occur,” Wylie says. “And so the entire positivity that’s been given to me by way of this, I wish to deliver that positivity again.”
Replace: Watch a bonus observe with Audubon’s personal Dominic Arenas rapping to So Wylie’s beat.