Infinite boundaries

There are 1000 sounds in the Nightingale’s repertoire ranging from whistling crescendos to cricking alarm calls. Only the unpaired male sings by night during breeding season. I didn’t know that when a little birdie woke me up in the still night with a fascinating song bringing about the realization of a beauty in life I’d never before quite imagined.

In Hans Anderson’s story, ‘Nightingale’, the Emperor replaced the real thing with a mechanical one because he preferred the tune of the latter. The real Nightingale flew back to the Emperor and sang to him while he lay weak in his bed. The Grim Reaper, who had come around to fetch the old man to his death, heard the tune and walked away. The Nightingale had saved the Emperor and prolonged his life.

But not all stories hold such promise about the Nightingale. In Greek mythology, Philomela is destroyed by her brother-in-law, and she transforms into the beautiful sounding Nightingale. The Nightingale is present in Homer’s Odyssey and Ovid’s metamorphosis; writers such as John Keats, Philip Sydney and T.S. Eliot have contributed to that literature with poetry and odes. In Hesiod’s fable, the Nightingale is trapped in the clutches of the powerful Hawk.

Thinking of the Nightingale can inspire a stretch in imagination beyond the sense of hearing and listening to savouring, chewing, digesting. Sounds and tunes are related to many moods and are enriched by smells and tastes that provoke and beckon feelings. The aroma of a simple cup of coffee is a good example. The flavors all depend on the attention given to different stages of its preparation. A good hard roast brewed in ginger, cloves and rue is like no other. Everyone knows that an Arabica goes well with a Cognac, or Brandy. Its just as satisfying on its own first thing in the morning or right after a meal. The simplicity never betrays the upbeat stimulating effect.

How authentically sounds, smells, tastes, melodies, rhythms, colors and textures are inspired and what influences them is a curious topic marking beginnings and endings of cyclical process. Crafting words to give them all meaning is an inspiring and challenging art. Pulled together, could they ever sound anything close to the thousand whistles and crescendos of the ordinary looking little brown Nightingale?

I heard the Nightingale singing outside my window on several occasions, always by night. At first, I thought I was dreaming. I listened intently to the novel experience. I only guessed it was a Nightingale because of the fairy tales I had read and heard as a child. I wanted to be sure, so I spent some time listening to recordings of bird songs and after finding out about its whereabouts I settled with the fact that I had indeed heard the Nightingale.

Little did I know when I adopted the name that I had been taken like a light to a flame. All I had hoped for was to obtain focus and creative potential not complete transformation. The embodiment was challenging as the sound that emerges from the tiny, vulnerable corps is incomparable to the human voice and bulky physique. The experiment demanded vision, a great thing to have so long as the words crafted and pronounced turned out just as refined and diverse as the bird song. By default, the bar was set high to facilitate a wide spectrum of meaning making, perspective and style. The journey towards creative expression is long and holds the promise of an inkling, independent vocation. The accompanying feelings and emotions were unexpected, sometimes liabilities, and beyond intellectual or spiritual bargain. For that, not only do I salute the Nightingale but also my friends the Robin, the Black Bird and the Song Thrush.

The challenge deepens with technological choice. Creating content in print, audio, and visual mediums is more laborious and time consuming than producing short stories with social relevance. Advancements like AI appear attractive and interesting. What AI might I apply to illustrate my visualizations; transform thoughts into words, music interpretations into songs without music sheets? All lessons yet to be learned. The hint offered by superhero Marvel producers on YouTube, which visual artists testify to, is that AI shortcuts menial work. I chew on that thought with the awareness that my menial efforts took me from the Nightingale’s song to a constellation of ideas and connections. The song and the process is,in its organic making, just what it is, outstanding and beautiful.

Nature can be hard to understand and I don’t know enough to say AI can simplify this in the way it brings relief to commercial creations. Observing differences between languages, paragraphs and poetry verses; drawings, images, shapes and forms, and piecing together sounds to create tunes can all be entertaining and frustrating. Getting to the point of completion is victory regardless of perfection. The lived experience can never be replicated in full artistically. What lacks scent, aroma, and temperature, however, can be described and expressed in one or many forms at best, and what appears incomplete can be left to the imagination for completion.

Digital art © Nightingale_VN

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