Caught by the River

the bird that never flew

18th August 2023

Commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland, Hanna Tuulikki’s new musical composition the bird that never flew explores Glasgow Cathedral’s roots in ornithological entanglements, bringing together sacred lament and political protest to raise the alarm for critically endangered birds.

Hanna Tuulikki, ‘the bird that never flew’, 2023. Commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland with Arts&Heritage. Image courtesy the artist. Photography: Laurence Winram. Make-up: MV Brown

With its distinctive red breast and warbling song, the European robin plays a prominent role in the life of Glasgow’s patron saint, St Mungo, who is said to have brought a dead bird back to life by holding it in his hands, smoothing its feathers, and praying until the lifeless creature revived.

In times of severe biodiversity loss, where numbers of wild birds in Britain have declined drastically, Mungo’s story of empathy with nature prompts us to consider how we might support other-than-human beings faced with climate chaos.

As a starting point for her speculative fiction, Tuulikki asks: “How might we return our senses and begin to listen with care and act with compassion? What if we were able to translate the alarm calls of birds into human language and discovered these signals were alerting all beings to the destruction of the earth? What if these alarm calls were a collective call to rise up and protest?”

Drawing on sacred music traditions, myth, and ecology, the bird that never flew is a new composition for three voices, field recordings and electronics, weaving together what the robin knows of past, present and future. Memorialising biodiversity loss, this animal fable for tomorrow will bring the alarm call of nature into a space of human sanctuary, sounding a red alert through a cacophony of human and avian harmony.

Taking place live on Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September, the innovative piece will be performed by Tuulikki, alongside award winning Scottish vocalist Mischa Macpherson and Glasgow-based voice and sound artist Lucy Duncombe.

As well as the two performances, Tuulikki is also inviting audiences on a “Dawn Chorus Walk” on Sunday 10th September at 6am in Glasgow’s Necropolis for a deep listening exploration of the urban bird habitat that inspired the work. Those involved can walk, listen, and reflect on what they can do to raise the alarm for the precious bird species they share their city with.

More information / tickets available here