blackbird diary – teaching Rigoletto and Figaro

Tanja Böhme
Bildende Kunst
Klasse Al Solh
blackbird diary – teaching Rigoletto and Figaro
blackbird diary – teaching Rigoletto and Figaro
blackbird diary – teaching Rigoletto and Figaro
blackbird diary – teaching Rigoletto and Figaro



I discovered a blackbird nest in our garden, in a fir tree, very well hidden, about 3-4m above the ground. 
I decided to teach the male hatchlings Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi.
Today I gave the first practice lesson and whistled ‘La donna è mobile’ to them.
From now on I will whistle every day for 5 min.

Blackbirds stand out because of their unusual and individual singing. Researchers discovered that blackbird songs of males contain up to 30 strophes.

Blackbirds are able to change and update their songs. When they start singing in February, the songs become louder over time. The motifs become more coordinated, the pauses become more precise, and the melodies become more varied. It can also happen that they adopt the siren sound of the fire department nearby or a cell phone ringing from the neighborhood. They can also adapt human whistles and skillfully incorporate them into their song, even if they have heard it only once. 

Blackbirds follow the melodies of their rivals very closely. Often the songs of their neighbors are similar. Not only do they compete, but they also testify to one another that they know each other and come from the same area. 

(taz archive, „Was singen die Amseln?“, 10.04.2004)

I carried out the project until 30.09.2021. During this time, the roles of teacher and student have become blurred. I have become a student myself. My whistling has changed. It has become more varied, more precise. My hearing has tightened. The blackbirds and I entered a dialogue. We heard each other and we listened to each other. Questions about belonging have come to me. Do we know each other? Do we come from the same area?

My whistling has become a three-month journey through time and space. It is a floating narrative about community, territory, belonging, togetherness and living together.