inbox and environment news: Issue 512
October 3 - 9, 2021: Issue 512
Ingleside Precinct Update: Alternative Proposed
Watch Out!: Baby Birds Are About In Warriewood Wetlands
Protected Pittwater Spotted Gum Poisoned In Palmgrove Road
Crescent Reserve Newport: Vandalism By Trail Bikers Destroys 24 Years Of Work By Volunteers
Trafalgar Park Newport: Erosion, Soil Runoff Post Concrete Path Installation
Avalon Preservation Association 2021 AGM
APA Careel Creek Sediment Removal Works Update
- - the removal of weeds, such as Phoenix palms with the need to reduce erosion of the banks of the creek; and,
- - the retention of mangroves with the need to permit adequate water flow.
- - stabilise the banks with indigenous planting;
- - replace weeds with indigenous planting; and
- - remove snags from the creek to enable water flow.
November 2021 Forum For Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Fishing Bats And Water Rats (Rakali)
Migratory Bird Season
Baby Wildlife Season
Harry the ringtail possum. Sydney Wildlife photo
Save Sydney's Koala Update: Black Day For Sydney’s Last Koala Population
Point And Focus On Hawkesbury River For World Rivers Day
World’s Largest Shark Management Program Deployed To NSW Beaches
Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2021
The 2021 event will run from October 18‒24 during National Bird Week. Register as a counter today at: https://aussiebirdcount.org.au/
The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is one of Australia’s biggest citizen science events. This year is our eighth count, and we’re hoping it will be our biggest yet!
Join thousands of people around the country in exploring your backyard, local park or favourite outdoor space and help us learn more about the birds that live where people live.
Taking part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great way to connect with the birds in your backyard, no matter where your backyard happens to be. You can count in a suburban garden, a local park, a patch of forest, down by the beach, or the main street of town.
To take part, register on the website today, then during the count you can use the web form or the app to submit your counts. Just enter your location and get counting ‒ each count takes just 20 minutes!
Not only will you be contributing to BirdLife Australia's knowledge of Aussie birds, but there are also some incredible prizes on offer.
Head over to the Aussie Backyard Bird Count website to find out more.
NPWS Concerned Over Increased Dog Walking In National Parks
250 Million Dollar Allocated For Carbon Capture, Use And Storage Hubs And Technologies
- $100 million will support the design and construction of carbon capture hubs and shared infrastructure, and
- $150 million will support research and commercialisation of carbon capture technologies and identify viable carbon storage sites.
Hydrogen Industry 150 Million Dollar Boost
2 Billion Dollar Loan Facility For Australia's Minerals Sector
21 Million For Gas From North Bowen And Galilee Basins Developers
- $15.7 million for gas field trials including innovative drilling programs to prove the region’s potential; and
- $5 million for studies to support development of a new gas pipeline to the region, co-funded by the Queensland government.
- $14 million for Geoscience Australia and CSIRO to deliver better data about baseline conditions across each of the Government’s priority strategic basin regions;
- $13.7 million to continue research under the CSIRO’s GISERA (Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance); and
- More than $370 million for various road upgrades to support supply chains, trade and project construction, through the Northern Australia Roads program, Roads of Strategic Importance initiative and the Regional Economic Enabling Fund
NSW Raises Climate Targets; Federal Government Keeps Announcing Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars To Be Used For Gas Fracking And Coal Mining Expansion
NSW Set To Halve Emissions By 2030
No Need For Narrabri Gas: New Report’s Roadmap Good News For Rural Communities If Acted On
- Gas demand within New South Wales could be 70 percent lower as soon as 2030, and eliminated altogether as soon as 2050, using readily available, commercially viable technologies.
- With the right policies in place to support technologies like electric resistance heating and renewable hydrogen, gas use can be reduced in emissions-intensive industries like iron and steel manufacturing.
- Homes and commercial buildings are responsible for almost half of New South Wales’ gas use and meeting their needs with electricity is readily achievable with existing, commercially available technologies.
- Putting common-sense measures in place to reduce gas demand in New South Wales, such as electrifying homes and upgrading commercial buildings, would make the expensive and polluting Narrabri Gas Project redundant.
- There is no shortage of gas anywhere in Australia with the growing demands of a swollen gas export industry driving supply issues, higher energy bills, and worsening climate change.
- It is critically important for our economy, health, and climate that every state and territory transitions away from fossil fuels like gas as quickly as possible.
NSW Government Plan To Revitalise Peat Island And Mooney Mooney Released
- Nearly 270 new homes at Mooney Mooney to deliver more housing supply,
- Retention of nine unlisted historical buildings on the island, and four on the mainland, to be restored and used for new community and commercial opportunities,
- New retail and café or restaurant opportunities,
- Approximately 9.65 hectares of open space, including opportunities for walking and cycling tracks, parklands and recreational facilities,
- Retention of the chapel and surrounding land for community use, and
- 10.4 hectares of bushland dedicated as a conservation area.
New Western Sydney National Park To Lead Fight Against Extinction
- brown antechinus
- eastern bettong
- eastern quoll
- southern long-nosed bandicoot
- New Holland mouse
- brush-tailed phascogale
- common dunnart
- bush rat
- bush stone-curlew
- green and golden bell frog
- Yathong Nature Reserve, near Cobar Central NSW, fenced area approximately 40,000 hectares
- Ngambaa Nature Reserve, near Macksville North-east NSW, fenced area approximately 3000 hectares
- South-east NSW (Eden Bombala Region), estimated fenced area approximately 1500 – 2000 hectares
- Pilliga State Conservation Area, near Baradine North-west NSW, fenced area 5800 hectares
- Sturt National Park, near Tibooburra Far North-west NSW, fenced area 4000 hectares
- Mallee Cliffs National Park, near Buronga South-west NSW, fenced area 9570 hectares
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Extinction Risk Report Can Inform Conservation Of Australia's Sharks And Rays
Ley Approves Vickery Coal Mine Until December 2051 Despite Supreme Court Appeal On Foot
New Fracking-Industry Influenced Report Toes Government Line On Gas
Pitt Wastes More Public Cash On QLD Gas While Tourism Misses Out
Precious Wildlife Habitat Is Still Woefully Vulnerable Despite New Conservation Scheme
Automated Fish Counting System To Benefit Ecology And Fisheries Industry
Bushcare In Pittwater
Where we work Which day What time
Angophora Reserve 3rd Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Avalon Dunes 1st Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Avalon Golf Course 2nd Wednesday 3 - 5:30pm
Careel Creek 4th Saturday 8:30 - 11:30am
Toongari Reserve 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer)
Bangalley Headland 2nd Sunday 9 to 12noon
Winnererremy Bay 4th Sunday 9 to 12noon
North Bilgola Beach 3rd Monday 9 - 12noon
Algona Reserve 1st Saturday 9 - 12noon
Plateau Park 1st Friday 8:30 - 11:30am
Browns Bay Reserve 1st Tuesday 9 - 12noon
McCarrs Creek Reserve Contact Bushcare Officer To be confirmed
Old Wharf Reserve 3rd Saturday 8 - 11am
Kundibah Reserve 4th Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Mona Vale Beach Basin 1st Saturday 8 - 11am
Mona Vale Dunes 2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday 8:30 - 11:30am
Bungan Beach 4th Sunday 9 - 12noon
Crescent Reserve 3rd Sunday 9 - 12noon
North Newport Beach 4th Saturday 8:30 - 11:30am
Porter Reserve 2nd Saturday 8 - 11am
Irrawong Reserve 2nd Saturday 2 - 5pm
North Palm Beach Dunes 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon
Catherine Park 2nd Sunday 10 - 12:30pm
Elizabeth Park 1st Saturday 9 - 12noon
Pathilda Reserve 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon
Warriewood Wetlands 1st Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Norma Park 1st Friday 9 - 12noon
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay 2nd Sunday 10 - 1pm
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay 1st Monday 9 - 12noon
Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater
Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You
A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
Angophora Reserve - Angophora Reserve Flowers
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants
Careel Bay Birds
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach + Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths: Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze
New Shorebirds WingThing For Youngsters Available To Download
A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.
If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.
Shorebird Identification Booklet
The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities.
The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format: http://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/Shorebird_ID_Booklet_V3.pdf
Paper copies can be ordered as well, see http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/counter-resources for details.
Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife
Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat. The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.
Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.
What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.
The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia.
This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged.
The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia.
The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds.
In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats.
In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely.
The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population.
Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations.
BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.
To find out more visit: http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/shorebirds-2020-program
Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points
International Day Of Older Persons 1st Of October
- To bring awareness of the importance of digital inclusion of older persons, while tackling stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination associated with digitalization, taking into account sociocultural norms and the right to autonomy.
- To highlight policies to leverage digital technologies for full achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
- To address public and private interests, in the areas of availability, connectivity, design, affordability, capacity building, infrastructure, and innovation.
- To explore the role of policies and legal frameworks to ensure privacy and safety of older persons in the digital world.
- To highlight the need for a legally binding instrument on the rights of older persons and an intersectional person-centered human rights approach for a society for all ages.
AvPals Term 4 2021 Classes Via Zoom
Avpals are pleased to announce our term four training schedule. All courses will be presented using Zoom.
Courses in term four will be conducted each Tuesday afternoon from 1.30pm, using Zoom. There will be a charge of $10 per course except for our introductory presentation on Tuesday October 5th 2021, which is free.
Below is a summary of Zoom courses for term 4, 2021
- They’ll never ask for any account or personal details by text or email
- They’ll never threaten to cancel your account or arrest you if you don’t pay immediately
- The AFP, Australian Government, and state police services will never ask you to pay a fine with cash, crypto currency such as Bitcoin, gift cards such as iTunes or Google Play and never seek payment for fines or other matters over the phone. If you are in any doubt, call the AFP National Switchboard on (02) 5126 0000
- Never share passwords and personal information
- Anyone asking for a password is probably a scammer
- Be a sceptic when receiving unexpected email attachments, links and texts. If in doubt, delete
- Scammers target everyone, and they sound genuine
- Use up-to-date anti-virus software to protect your computer
- Don’t send money or personal information to people from unusual locations
- Report suspected scams to Scam Watch
Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative To Provide National Voice For CALD Health
EnCOMPASS Community Connectors To Help CALD Older People Navigate Aged Care
- Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra
- Australian Nursing Home Foundation
- Ethnic Community Services Cooperative
- Advance Diversity Services
- CASS Care
- Multicultural Care
- Western Sydney MRC
- Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association
- Islamic Women’s Association of Australia
- Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory
- Inala Community House
- World Wellness Group
- Australian Refugee Association
- Uniting SA
- Multicultural Communities’ Council of SA
- Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania
- Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre
- Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council
- Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre
- Chung Wah Association
- Umbrella Community Care
Follow Nuyina Home
Point And Focus On Hawkesbury River For World Rivers Day
Help Ward Off Dementia Step By Step: New Podcast Shares The Power Of Physical Activity
Pension Boost Today An Opportunity To Save More Tomorrow
- An extra $22.40 per fortnight for eligible couples (or $582.40 per annum)
- And for singles $14.80 per fortnight (or $384.80 per annum)
New Report Looks At The Impacts Of Dementia In Australia
Matildas Bringing International Sport Back To Sydney
Giant Waikato Penguin: School Kids Discover New Species
September 17, 2021
A giant fossilized penguin discovered by New Zealand school children has been revealed as a new species in the peer-reviewed Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Massey University researchers.
Penguins have a fossil record reaching almost as far back as the age of the dinosaurs, and the most ancient of these penguins have been discovered in Aotearoa. Fossil penguins from Zealandia (ancient Aotearoa) are mostly known from Otago and Canterbury although important discoveries have recently been made in Taranaki and Waikato.
In 2006 a group of school children on a Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS) fossil hunting field trip in Kawhia Harbour, led by the club's fossil expert Chris Templer, discovered the bones of a giant fossil penguin.
The Kawhia giant penguin Kairuku waewaeroa. Image credit: Simone Giovanardi.
Researchers from Massey University and Bruce Museum (Connecticut, United States) visited Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato to analyse the fossil bones of the ancient penguin. The team used 3D scanning as part of their investigation and compared the fossil to digital versions of bones from around the world. 3D scanning also meant the team could produce a 3D-printed replica of the fossil for the Hamilton Junior naturalists. The actual penguin fossil was donated by the club to the Waikato Museum in 2017.
Dr Daniel Thomas, a Senior Lecturer in Zoology from Massey's School of Natural and Computational Sciences, says the fossil is between 27.3 and 34.6 million years old and is from a time when much of the Waikato was under water.
"The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described from Otago but has much longer legs, which the researchers used to name the penguin waewaeroa -- Te reo M?ori for 'long legs'. These longer legs would have made the penguin much taller than other Kairuku while it was walking on land, perhaps around 1.4 metres tall, and may have influenced how fast it could swim or how deep it could dive," Dr Thomas says.
"It's been a real privilege to contribute to the story of this incredible penguin. We know how important this fossil is to so many people," he adds.
"Kairuku waewaeroa is emblematic for so many reasons. The fossil penguin reminds us that we share Zealandia with incredible animal lineages that reach deep into time, and this sharing gives us an important guardianship role. The way the fossil penguin was discovered, by children out discovering nature, reminds us of the importance of encouraging future generations to become kaitiaki [guardians]."
Mike Safey, President of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club says it is something the children involved will remember for the rest of their lives.
"It was a rare privilege for the kids in our club to have the opportunity to discover and rescue this enormous fossil penguin. We always encourage young people to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. There's plenty of cool stuff out there just waiting to be discovered."
Steffan Safey was there for both the discovery and rescue missions. "It's sort of surreal to know that a discovery we made as kids so many years ago is contributing to academia today. And it's a new species, even! The existence of giant penguins in New Zealand is scarcely known, so it's really great to know that the community is continuing to study and learn more about them. Clearly the day spent cutting it out of the sandstone was well spent!"
Dr Esther Dale, a plant ecologist who now lives in Switzerland, was also there.
"It's thrilling enough to be involved with the discovery of such a large and relatively complete fossil, let alone a new species! I'm excited to see what we can learn from it about the evolution of penguins and life in New Zealand."
Alwyn Dale helped with the recovery of the fossil. "It was definitely one of those slightly surreal things to look back on -- absolute bucket list moment for me. After joining JUNATS there were some pretty iconic stories of amazing finds and special experiences -- and excavating a giant penguin fossil has got to be up there! A real testament to all the parents and volunteers who gave their time and resources to make unique and formative memories for the club members."
Taly Matthews, a long-time member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club, and who works for the Department of Conservation in Taranaki, says, "Finding any fossil is pretty exciting when you think about how much time has passed while this animal remained hidden away, encased in rock. Finding a giant penguin fossil though is on another level. As more giant penguin fossils are discovered we get to fill in more gaps in the story. It's very exciting."
Simone Giovanardi, Daniel T. Ksepka, Daniel B. Thomas. A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2021; DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1953047
Decoding the music masterpieces: Stravinsky’s The FirebirdScott Davie, Australian National University
On June 25 1910, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird opened to acclaim at the Paris Opéra. The success propelled its composer, then aged 28, to international prominence, a position of influence he would retain for six decades.
The ballet’s myth-like storyline features a magical Firebird, who helps a young prince rescue a coterie of princesses from Kashchey, an evil sorcerer.
Based on the eponymous bird of Russian folklore, it has ultimately propagated some myths of its own - relating to the artistic ideals of the team who created it, and the narrative’s historical accuracy.
Most crucial, though, is the composer himself who, through successive elaborations of his own biography, engaged in myth-making on an extensive scale. Notable for what Stravinsky expert Richard Taruskin terms his “celebrated mendacity”, questions have lingered as to whether certain of the composer’s early musical ideas were as original as they seemed.
After The Firebird, Stravinsky’s early career was bolstered by the triumph of his next two works: Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. Given the impact of the last work in particular, it is customary to note Stravinsky’s pivotal influence on the development of musical modernism.
Yet in 1910, he was a largely untested novice. The Firebird was a production of the Ballets Russes, newly formed by its director, the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. For over a decade, Diaghilev had been a leading member of a group known as “Mir iskusstva” (World of Art), the title of their short-lived magazine.
Their artistic ideals, however, were far from modern. A collection of conservatives, many were from aristocratic backgrounds with a tendency toward romantic nationalism. They were aligned against both the “realist” modernism of the previous generation, and the evolving spiritual modernism of fellow Russian composers like Scriabin. Their principles were those against which socialists would soon react.
In a series of ventures for Parisian audiences from 1906, Diaghilev looked to Russia’s past for his sources. After discovering how expensive opera was to produce, he settled exclusively on ballet from 1910. Again, however, his musical choices were initially conservative.
Magical birds are not without precedent in folklore, having featured in the childhood tales of many countries, such as Germany, where a similar creature appears in Grimm’s The Golden Bird.
Yet in Russia, the Firebird had a special significance, emerging as a nationalist symbol over the latter decades of the 19th century. Characterised as a bird of great beauty, it brought peril to those who tried to catch it or steal its glowing feathers.
In the Ballets Russes production, however, far from causing misfortune, when the young prince catches the Firebird it actually helps him.
Historians have noted the story is similar to lines from Russian poet Yakov Polonsky’s children’s poem, Winter Journey (1844). Yet the synopsis evidently is a conflation of two separate folk tales, developed by Mir iskusstva members as an export vehicle for foreign audiences.
Led by the choreographer Mikhail Fokine, the stories were repurposed by Alexandre Benois and Alexander Golovin, both important contributors to Ballets Russes design, and Nikolai Tcherepnin, the composer originally selected to write the Firebird’s music.
In short, the popular folk tale of Ivan-Tsarevich, and his quest for a beautiful princess (in which the Firebird features tangentially), was blended with a separate folk tale about the evil, immortal Kashchey, who dies at the hand of a prince who possesses a magical egg.
Fokine, who by typical accounts was a difficult choreographer to work with, likely caused three composers to exit or decline the project. Hence, the fortuitous opening for Stravinsky, a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the elder statesman of Russian music whose most progressive works were little known in the West.
According to Fokine’s autobiography, Stravinsky sat at the piano, improvising and accompanying as the choreographer first developed his ideas for the work. If this account is accurate, never again would the composer allow himself to appear so ancillary to the creative process.
The most noticeable element of Stravinsky’s score is the way harmonious, tonal music is given to the mortal characters – Ivan-Tsarevich and the princesses – while chromatic, non-tonal music underscores the supernatural others.
This clever device is, in fact, a Russian tradition. The source can be traced as far back as Mikhail Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842), where a strikingly non-tonal descending scale depicts the supernatural abduction of a bride from her traditional (and tonal) wedding feast.
Stravinsky, an observant student, had closely scrutinised the innovative, and increasingly non-tonal, musical works of Rimsky-Korsakov, where the device was also prevalent.
He elaborated on one of Rimsky’s theories to create what has been called a “ladder of thirds”. Analysis from recent decades by musicologist Taruskin, has detected this schematic underpinning large portions of The Firebird.
Most beautifully, it also provides the hushed musical transition from the underworld to the final tableau, where Ivan-Tsarevich and the princesses celebrate victory.
Yet for the mortal, tonal characters, Stravinsky, in places, incorporates folk melodies, another popular tradition among Russian composers.
Stravinsky was always squeamish when questioned about his use of folk melodies, even flatly denying it. Yet as later analysis has shown, other works of this period, such as The Rite of Spring, feature them in abundance.
The influence of Rimsky-Korsakov can be noted in other ways, too, not least in his own opera about the very same Kashchey (1902), and his final opera, The Golden Cockerel (1908), also, tellingly, about a magical bird.
Indeed, if one wanted to really push the point, mention could be made of the notorious similarity of the Mt Triglav episode from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera-ballet Mlada to Stravinsky’s Danse infernal in The Firebird where, in short, the plagiarism seems breathtaking.
But that would miss the most important point: for audiences in the West, The Firebird was a hit. These fantastical tales of Russia’s past were woven, almost accidentally it seems, with a musical work that on foreign soil appeared unexpectedly modern.
The belated development of Russian music had for a century remained relatively hidden to the rest of the world. And after a long gestation, it was Stravinsky who revealed many of its treasures.
It was as if a baton had passed from one generation to the next, through the smallest of steps. The real genius of Stravinsky is that he was to run so far with it, and so quickly.
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Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.