The Great Animal Orchestra, Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes

The Great Animal Orchestra, Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes by English composer Richard Blackford and wild soundscape recordist Bernie Krause combines the sounds of the natural world with the traditional sounds of the orchestra. Throughout the five movement symphony Gibbons, Humpback Whales, Pacific Tree Frogs, Mountain Gorillas, Beavers and the Musical Wren can be heard. For more information please visit:

The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony is accompanied by a new reorchestration of Saint-Saën's Carnival of the Animals by Richard Blackford for Symphony Orchestra



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'There are moments of genuine magic: microtonal wolves blending with horns; the tree frogs' croaking rhythms bleeding into percussion combo. Blackford and Krause's eco-friendly piece might make only small steps towards saving the planet, but it can still inspire, entertain and spread wonder.' BBC Music Magazine, January 2015

“This is an entertaining, sometimes moving work, a real achievement for both Richard Blackford and Bernie Krause expertly realised by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales… The recordings are excellent. The orchestra and tape recordings in The Great Animal Orchestra are superbly done. There are excellent booklet notes but anyone wishing to find out more information can do so by going online at An interesting talk with Richard Blackford and Bernie Krause in conversation with Christopher Cook, lasting around 20 minutes, follows these performances.”

"The Great Animal Orchestra - it's an entertaining piece which succeeds in bringing the outdoors indoors". Gramophone, October 2014

"Recording quality throughout is natural and clear with a manageable dynamic range. The animal sounds in the symphony are in just the right proportion to the orchestra. The combination is subtly managed by the engineers. The orchestral playing is top notch under the guidance of Martyn Brabbins." MusicWeb-International, December 2014

Cheltenham Festival World Premiere Saturday 12th July 2014

"This is a work that has attracted no small amount of attention thanks to its unique concept. Inspired by the book of the same name by soundscape recordist Bernie Krause, its five short movements incorporate into a colourful orchestral score recordings of wildlife made by Krause on travels around the world, from Borneo to the Arctic...the piece as a whole hung together very well, and the wildlife recordings never sounded contrived. And, again, it went down very well with the audience." BBC Music Magazine, July 2014

" I have never heard anything quite like this symphony, but, then, there has never been anything quite like this symphony...This music speaks with great eloquence, authority and immediacy, but not only on behalf of human beings: it speaks also for the natural world, casting light upon humanity’s often less than felicitous relationship with our fellow creatures." Gramophone, July 2014. Read the full aricle here:

"The result is stunning. Each of the five movements begins with a tape of the natural soundscape of a particular region or continent after which the orchestra takes over. Gibbons and the humpback whale feature in the first movement, while the scherzo is based on a chorus of Pacific tree frogs and a woodpecker. With its infectious percussion and jazz rhythms this section is both accessible and appealing. The march and charge of a herd of African elements brought moments of high drama to the evening, one of the stars of which was the Musician Wren from Central America whose intricate 44 note melody formed the basis of the concluding theme and variations. The ever-reliable Martyn Brabbins steered the excellent BBC National Orchestra of Wales through Blackford's ingenious score with great aplomb." Gloucestershire Echo, July 2014

"First performances of new pieces were greeted by highly enthusiastic, full houses in the vibrant last weekend of Cheltenham's music festival. Drawing from the remarkable wildlife and soundscape recordings of environmentalist Bernie Krause, Richard Blackford's The Great Animal Orchestra, a five-movement "bio-symphony" for orchestra, was premiered at the Town Hall by the BBC National Orchestra of Walesunder Martyn Brabbins. The sounds of the creatures – from a pack of wolves howling to insects to the musician wren – were arresting, galvanising us into listening anew to living soundscapes from around the world." The Guardian, July 2014

"Animal and bird imitations in music stretch back through Messiaen, Ravel, Prokofiev, Elgar, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, Daquin and countless others right back to Josquin's El grillo (The Cricket), composed around 1505. The mixing of orchestral and pre-recorded animal sounds perforce has a shorter history: Respighi's nightingale in The Pines of Rome and the massed birds of Rautavaara's Cantus arcticus are two notable examples, and among others I vividly remember a solitary broadcast of Canadian composer Theo Goldberg's haunting Songs of the Loon and the Raven (1975). The Great Animal Orchestra explores further. Composer Richard Blackford acknowledges as co-creator Bernie Krause, authorof the book of the same name, whose subtitle 'Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places' launches a thesis claiming that man learned to sing and dance from animals. Starting as simple mimics of individual creatures, we humans may have learned to organize our own music on the lines of entire natural soundscapes (or 'biophonics') whereby high middle and low register animal sounds in the wild react, alternate, blend, compete and build up. The idea seems obvious if one considers that successfully evolved animals communicate best - for the purposes of recognition, reproduction and even group survival - by tailoring their sounds to be distinct from, not just simultaneous with (and likely to be obliterated by), those around them. Effective music follows suit. (…)Blackford provides humour and subtlety in abundance, however; the exercise is well worth a careful listen and the whole disc is most recommendable. Lovers of ultra-bizarre arrangements may (repeat, may) like to ‘compare and contrast’ the  Saint-Saëns with the 2013 Brilliant Classics release (94881) which coupled the Carnival with Tchaikovsky’s Casse Noisette – the whole arranged for organ four hands!" International Record Review, February 2015


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