Song Cycle


by Felix Cehak

View Felix Cehak's Biography

Felix Cehak is a Queensland based artist currently working with rainforest subjects.

Song Cycle

Felix Cehak

Video credit: Song Cycle, Felix Cehak, video, 1 minute 20 seconds.


The vocalisations of the Alberts Lyrebird include a sharp territorial whistle song, often the loudest call in the forest, and a deep guttural gurgling, representing onomatopoeically as 'gronking.' However, it is the bird's mimicry which is its best known habit. Despite a popular depiction of birds incorporating anthropomorphic sounds into their song, this behaviour has only been observed thus far in Superb Lyrebirds, and mechanical mimicry only in captive birds. The Alberts Lyrebird's song is in fact an almost perfectly synchronised collage of bird calls, a repertoire every male bird in the sub-population performs. This uniform quality extends to the actual order the mimicked sounds are produced in, creating a cyclical pattern of song.

The text in the piece corresponds to these patterns and the phrasing of the sounds is directly lifted from the research of Sydney Curtis (1928-2015), drawing on a pattern observed in the Knoll Section of Tamborine Mountain. Curtis recorded this cycle no later than the mid 1990s, and it is still stable and represented in my own recent recordings. This short-term history, and the distinct visual character of field-based ecology in the Australian bush, contrast with the intense age of its subject. The oldest Lyrebird fossil is approximately 15 million years old, with the extant Alberts Lyrebird possibly alive for half that span.