Evolution of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic (1980-1987)
In the summer of 1980, Mission of Burma's
Miller and local composer/producer Erik
Lindgren recorded two of Roger's piano compositions at Erik's
Sounds Interesting studio in Cambridge, M.A. Burma's Martin Swope
assisted on one piece by adding guitar.
the spring of 1981, Pulse Piece was released on a local
compilation LP A Wicked Good Time
- Volume 1 (Modern Method 268). They agreed to play three
songs for the Modern Method benefit show and added Rick
Scott on Farfisa organ. The quartet played out three more
times that year in between Mission of Burma's busy touring schedule.
In August, the band began recording material for a five-song EP
on the Boston-based Ace of Hearts label.
material that included excerpts from "The Rite Of Spring" and
the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" theme was brought into the repertoire
during the spring of 1982. Birdsongs' two live performances that
year included shows with the Dirutti Column and Burma. They continued
to work on their first record.
the demise of Mission of Burma in
March of 1983, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic became a fully-realized
performing ensemble with each member contributing original compositions.
In June, EP (Ace of Hearts 1008) was released and picked up momentum
that fall with favorable reviews and positive airplay. It received
attention on diverse radio programs ranging from rock to new wave
to jazz to experimental to electronic music across the country.
In support of the disc, the group collaborated with Mark Diamond
and produced music videos for Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous
and Sound Valentine. Along with receiving local airplay,
these were picked up by Rock America distributors and added to
their April 1984 reels which were shown in clubs throughout the
Halloween, the group began recording a full-length LP for Ace
of Hearts. They had only fifteen performances that year but secured
a strong local following in Boston by playing such eclectic places
as the Rat (opening for The Fall), Boston Film/Video Foundation,
Mass Art "Eventworks" series, and the Institute of Contemporary
Art. A very successful New York performance at Danceteria with
Psychic TV resulted in a favorable article by Jon Pareles in the
NY Times. A recording of Brian Eno's Sombre Reptiles came
out on a local compilation album (Art Arf 009).
the first half of 1984, accelerated activity included opening
dates for Echo and the Bunnymen at the Channel, Siouxsie and the
Banshees at the Orpheum, and an evening of music at the Boston
Shakespeare Theatre. Their second trip to New York City drew picks
in the NY Times, Village Voice and New York Post. In July, their
album Magnetic Flip (Ace of Hearts 10018) came out and
received airplay on over 150 stations.
support the new album, the band set out on a very successful ten
date Midwestern tour that brought them as far west as Minneapolis.
Highlights were two shows in Illinois with Fred Frith and Tom
Cora. A short jaunt to New York and Washington DC (co-headlining
with pianist Ran Blake) was also well-received. Ptoccata
from Magnetic Flip was used as an opening musical sequence
for a PBS NOVA documentary. A November date at the Marlboro (MA)
Public Library proved most entertaining for all involved. Birdsongs
continued to maintain a balance between rock clubs and art-circuit
performance spaces. In January, 1985, they played to a sellout
crowd at New York's prestigious Kitchen, which was a pick in both
the Times and Voice. In March, Ace of Hearts booked time at Le
Studio in Montreal to record their third record.
April, Birdsongs set out on a nine date tour of the south that
included shows in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.
Contrary to what some individuals feared, the reception was very
good with a sincere appreciation for the band's uniqueness. In
May, they played a successful show with Einsturzende Neubauten
at the Channel in Boston.
working on overdubs and the mixing of ther new five-song EP, they
continued to perform locally and throughout the northeast. In
November, they performed 4 shows with the Lounge Lizards at the
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. By the end of the year, the new
record was completed and their position as a performing ensemble
April 1986, Birdsongs hosted a party at Boston's Paradise Club
in anticipation of Beat Of The Mesozoic (Ace of Hearts 1018) which
was officially released in June. Throughout the summer and fall,
it received airplay on over 150 stations. In September, they set
out on a mini-tour throughout the mid-Atlantic states. Then in
December, they accomplished another successful ten date tour of
the south. The group ended the year by playing at Portland, Maine's
"First Night" celebration.
April, 1987, Birdsongs set out on an extensive fourteen date "Beat
of the Spring" tour throughout the Midwest. Also that spring,
they recorded an original score to Michael Burlingame's surrealistic
film To A Random that was released on an album Soundtracks
(Arf Arf 020). Footage of that film was re-edited to "Lost In
The B-Zone" and appeared on MTV's 120 Minutes program. In June
1987, the group was included on the Massachusetts State Touring
Roster. That summer, they headlined at CBGB's in New York City
as part of New Music Seminar #8 along with sharing the bill with
They Might Be Giants at the Main Arts Festival. On September 25,
the group had it's final performance with Roger Miller at the
North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA. This event included
a guest appearance by saxophonist Steve Adams, who would be Roger's
future replacement for the next year.
the spring of 1988, Rykodisc issued Sonic
Geology (Ryko 20073), an 18-track compilation CD which
includes most of their Ace of Hearts material plus 2 unreleased
compositions that were mixed in August, 1987 with Bob Winsor at
then, Birdsongs has continued to grow, record, and tour extensively
while releasing two critically acclaimed compact discs for the
Washington, DC-based Cuneiform label, 1989's Faultline
(Rune 19) and 1992's Pyroclastics
(Rune 35). In 1988, Ken Field took over
for Steve Adams, who relocated to join San Francisco's ROVA saxophone
quartet. In addition, Michael Bierylo
replaced guitarist Martin Swope, who moved to Hawaii in 1991.
Fossil Record is a collection of unreleased and obscure
recordings that were made during the ensemble's first phase of
creativity from 1980 to 1987. Throughout personnel changes and
different instrumental line-ups, Birdsongs has continued to bridge
the gap where "cacophony meets classicism in a mesmerizing instrumental
venture into the space age jungle" (Billboard).