‘BIRD’ is a piece inspired by many aspects of bird myth, language, community and physiology. As a piece, it asks the question if there had not come the “invention of language and the the formation of word, the analysis of ideas - the means of communication between one spirit and another” (Proust).What would have happened in its place? Both myth and music employ the same subconscious processes of metamorphosis and substitution, inversion and retrogression, elision and catalexis, augmentation and diminution, rotation and permutation.
In the Egyptian book of the dead, the Ka spirit, is bestowed upon the individual at the time of birth and and death leaves the human body in the shape of a bird body with the face of the deceased. There are many images on Egyptian mummies depicting this. The Ka spirit, is the flies into the underworld so the soul can be weighed and evaluated (Luis Vinko Zabkar). The ka spirit is thought of, as the life force received by man from the gods yet exists independently from the person. The ka is a spiritual double that lives on even after the death of the physical self so long as it has a place to live. This is the reason why the Egyptians mummified their dead because if the body is allowed to decompose, the ka may die with it negating the person’s chance for eternal life. In fact, the euphemism of Egyptians regarding death was “going to one’s ka”. Tombs were made with houses of ka’s for the spirit to reside. Offerings of food and drinks are also common to provide nourishment to the ka. It also believed that the person might have multiple ka’s that reigned supreme at death. In fact, Rameses II once claimed that he had as many as 20 kas or even more.
The Ka transcends what others think of as the idea of the soul. When the Ka acted, the person is well both physically and spiritually. It is believed that sin is an abomination to the ka. In this aspect, the ka spirits represented the conscience that leads the person to compassion, honour and most especially righteousness. In some, it is depicted as vigour, youth and anything that the person was believed to be desirable and right most especially eternal life.
BIRD is also intended as a ‘post-shamanic’ work, in that it takes the idea of transformation through the taking on of the form of an animal without taking on the spiritual aspects of shamanism. It is more accurate to say that it plays with the the idea of the performer transforming themselves through transcendental technique and a kind of circular breathing, giving the impression of singing themselves to death. Strictly speaking, shamanism is a religious phenomenon that comes out of and was first observed in Siberia and Central Asia, the word itself coming to us from the Russian ‘šaman’. It was later, similar phenomena were observed in, for instance, North America, Mexico and certain parts of Indonesia and would be found in the context of other forms of ‘magical belief’ and religion. In relation to the piece ‘BIRD’ I am most interested here in two aspects of shamanism. Firstly the function of the shaman, and secondly the structure of a shamanic technique.