Music has wings

Our project started back in second year and has been growing ever since. We believe the reason Irish music and African music sound so similar is due to the migratory birds, such as the Swallow, which migrate between the two countries and influence the two genres of music by singing in the surrounding areas. We got the idea for our project by taking the time to listen to the birds around us. As Irish musicians, we our trained to learn music by ear instead of learning music by notes on a sheet. Team member Patrick thought that one birdsong sounded like “The Kesh Jig”. When he discovered the bird was a swallow, all he knew about the swallow was that it migrates to Africa every year. He then thought if these birds can influence the music here in Ireland, surely they can do the same in Africa and cause the two genres of music to sound similar.

BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2015 Chloe Daniels, Patrick Sweeney and Annette Moran from Carrick on Shannon Community School Co Leitrim and their project 'Birdsong and music: Connections between African and Irish music and development of a new music genre based on the Galapagos Island's birdsong'. Photo Colm Mahady / Fennell Photography

We researched our hypothesis by using audio editor files. These allowed us to place two pieces of audio side by side so we could view the connection between the birds and the music both visually and aurally. We then took our findings and analysed them through maths by using Fourier’s Transformation. This mathematical equation broke down our audios into a simple form of frequencies so we could see the connections more clearly. We found huge similarities between the migratory birds and the two countries music. This then led us to question that if the birds can influence music here, surely they can do the same in other parts of the world?

We decided to compose our own music based on the birdsong of the Galapagos Islands. We knew these Islands have remained uninhabited for hundreds of years; therefore no one has had the chance to use the Islands birdsong to create new music. We used a music software programme to compose a new genre of music which is solely based on the unique birds of these uninhabited, isolated Islands.

Once we had successfully shown the results of our hypothesis, we published it by creating a website (How Music Has Wings). Our website has allowed us to reach scientists and many people who are keen to learn more about our project from places as far as Canada (Mc Gill University), South Africa and many may more. Our website takes the viewer through the many steps of our project in the format of a BLOG and we love getting feedback from the people who view it.

By entering our project in the BT Young Scientist, we have had amazing opportunities which we did not think were possible. We have carried our project further into competitions such as the ECO-UNESCO Young environmentalist’s awards and The Google Science Fair. We have spoken and presented at conferences all around Ireland and also spent a week in UCD at the BT Boot camp.

Coming into the fourth year of our project, we have made many connections around the Globe especially in South Africa where we are now receiving audio files of African birds from a school situated there. We feel that the BT Young Scientist is an opportunity not to be missed. It showed us, as students from a small community school in Leitrim, How Music Has Wings.

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