An Essay about Musician Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird's Sonic Symphony: A Deep Dive into Musical Ingenuity

His shows seemed so artsy-fartsy, almost as if an artist had made life his medium, and then, in a stretch, pained himself to express his dissatisfaction through music. A musical portrayal of suicide as art, that’s how it came across to me—I remember that, although I’m not sure why his music, before I really started listening to and appreciating it, came across to me that way. I remember thinking how silly it was.

And then, sometime between the release of the Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha (I can’t remember exactly), I heard a few scattered songs, maybe in the background of a house party that I never should have been at in the first place; music compilations, movies, “song similar to,” on Pandora, I have no idea. In some ways, it seems as if Andrew Bird has always been a part of my life, and in other ways it seems as if discovering him was an accident, serendipitous to life and altogether dissimilar to the other music I had been listening to at the time. In any case, Andrew Bird has evolved to be one of my favorite musicians. I might live the rest of my life in its entirety listening to only a handful of artists as they write and produce new music and Andrew Bird will always be one of them. He’s a violinist and a “professional,” whistler, and uses any number of instruments and sounds when making his music.

One thing that I can’t decide if I like about Andrew Bird’s songwriting is that he’ll continue to work on a song, even after it’s been released—like a remix, except not—until he thinks the song is perfect. Even if I think it’s already pretty damn perfect, and then he’ll go and rewrite it, and rerecord it, and one song might become three, or four, or five songs. The man is pretty OCD about his music, and he’s a perfectionist. Bird will stop a live performance if a song misses the tempo or if something doesn’t sound right to him, and then he’ll start the song again. I’ve never seen anyone else do that. It’s not at all like when Dylan or Oberst might forget a lyric because they might be drunk and then continue as if nothing’s happened.

Perhaps, my inexplicable connection to Andrew Bird’s music has something to do with the fact that he seems to follow me everywhere that I go. I walked into the Guggenheim only a couple of times in my life, the Guggenheim was not a museum that I would visit on a regular basis, and yet I walk through the doors and Andrew Bird is playing a small, free show in the museum. I was living in Salt Lake City, the first time I went to the Twilight Concert Series in downtown Salt Lake Andrew Bird was headlining, I had no idea; I saw him at the Paramount in Austin, Texas, and the Lensic in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bird always seemed to be where I was. I’m not complaining, his music is among the most intentional and nuanced that I’ve known; he’s an incredible musician, and the genius in his songwriting is remarkably underrated.            

I can listen to the Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha over and over again from beginning to end, and even after hearing each album dozens and dozens of times I still hear something new. If you haven’t yet listened to Andrew Bird, start with Roma Fade (Live at WFUV) or Are You Serious (Live on KEXP) or Danse Caribe Bluegrass Underground (PBS), they’re all live and available on YouTube or, for something a little different, Tables & Chairs Live at Bonnaroo (this song doesn’t really illustrate his talent, nevertheless it’s a fun song), only Tables & Chairs, of the songs named above, are tracks on either Mysterious Production or Armchair Apocrypha, yet they’re are some of my favorite Singles in Bird’s catalogue.

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