Nature is the inspiration for so many beautiful pieces of art and music.
With spring just around the corner, it's a good time to listen to classical music inspired by birds.
Whether you share these pieces just for their intrinsic musical value or incorporate them into a study of birds in your home, school, or co-op, we think they're a charming addition to any child's music appreciation repertoire!
Included are a few teaching and listening suggestions and a free printable to make the most of this charming music with your children.
We hope you enjoy this music "for the birds"!
Teaching This Music to Children
Each piece below has a few points for discussion. Children can also draw while they are listening, using this Draw What You Hear Sheet.
Children love this activity because it is creative, low-stress, and allows them to actively listen. Of course, we always encourage a first listening of the piece when everyone is SUPER QUIET - thus Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time! Then, the second time they can respond verbally or by drawing.
There are pieces from each of the four major eras of music. To explore these even deeper you might be interested in our Musical Eras series.
10 Pieces of Classical Music Inspired by the Birds
Vivaldi - Concerto in D Major ("The Goldfinch")
Listen for the flute in this concerto. Why is the flute a good instrument to imitate bird sounds?
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, "Spring"
A very familiar piece, your children should easily hear the birds in this piece - can you hear the violins sounding like birds?
Handel - Concerto in F ("The Cuckoo & The Nightingale)
Listen for the pipe organ and how it imitates Cuckoo and Nightingale songs. Your children will also hear a Baroque orchestra and harpsichord.
Beethoven - Pastoral Symphony
In this video from Fantasia it should be easy to picture the birds (although they are flying unicorns!) that Beethoven had in mind. If your children close their eyes can they picture a pastoral landscape that Beethoven was imagining when he wrote this symphony?
Saint-Saens - "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals
This Romantic era composer was a master at depicting animals! In this piece, from The Carnival of the Animals, Saint-Saens used the cello to imitate the graceful and peaceful movements of the swan. While not actually sounding like a bird call, this does sound like a swan, doesn't it?
Saint-Saens - "The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods" from The Carnival of the Animals
Here's another lovely piece by Saint-Saens - this time he uses a clarinet to depict the sound of the cuckoo. How many times do your children hear the cuckoo call?
Messiaen - The Blackbird
Messiaen was actually a master of musical ornithology. Listen to the play between the piano and the flute. What do you imagine is happening? Messiaen, a 20th century French composer, was known for meticulously depicting birdsong in his compositions.
Vaughn-Williams - The Lark Ascending
What does the word "ascending mean"? Can your children hear the violin music moving upwards? This music depicts the very free sounding song of the Skylark. This piece is a staple of classical music.
Rachmaninov - The Sea & The Gulls
In this musical painting, ask your children if they can hear the sea with the gulls swirling overhead? Can they use adjectives to describe the sounds? Remember, all answers are correct - you simply want to get your children listening critically.
Joplin - The Silver Swan
How about some Ragtime? Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime, wrote this rag, "The Silver Swan". Why do you think it sounds like a swan?