Jeff Tweedy, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Karen O, Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, and Danielle Haim are among the hundreds of artists, actors, and authors that have contributed new work to For the Birds: The Birdsong Project, a five-volume collection of over 242 recordings inspired by birdsong.
The first volume in the yearlong rollout arrived on streaming services Friday, with Beck, UNKLE, Beach House, Kurt Vile, Jarvis Cocker, Jim James, and Mark Ronson with Damon Albarn and Wale among the initial wave of artists in the charitable project. All proceeds from For the Birds will benefit the National Audubon Society.
Actors like Sean Penn and Tilda Swinton also provide bird-inspired poetic recitations for the first volume, with pieces from Olivia Wilde, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McConaughey, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, and Natasha Lyonne also set to arrive in forthcoming volumes throughout the year.
“The Birdsong Project is a community dedicated to the protection of bird life, and to the celebration of the joy and mysteries of birdsong,” the project’s organizers said of the collection. “We believe that birds — no matter feather or flock — are precious and inspiring and fundamental to our world. That a world without birds would be a world without freedom and flight and song. We believe birds matter. Are endangered. And need our help.”
The project was spearheaded by producer and music supervisor Randall Poster, who also produced the five volumes. “I’m awed by the overwhelming artistic response to this unique project,” Poster said in a statement. “Their creation of so many thoughtful and distinct recordings, united in birdsong, is a wonder unto itself. My hope is for the project to increase awareness of threats to bird populations, and I’m honored to support the Audubon Society’s essential work in conservation.”
Elvis Costello, who also contributed music to the project, added, “This should be so very obvious; without birds we would be knee-deep in worms, swarmed by bugs, the trees bereft of song. The least we can do is raise our voices in praise or lament. I’m grateful to Randall for asking me to join his magnificent flock.”
After all five volumes arrive individually by September 2022, Downtown Records will release a massive 20-LP vinyl box set of all 242 tracks and a 60-page book featuring an essay by musician-ornithologist Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater/Loma, as well as paintings and illustrations of birds by well-known artists. The box set also comes with a pair of “Birdoculars” created by Warby Parker, one of the partners on the project; the eyeglasses company will also provide 20,000 pairs of the “Birdoculars” to cultural institutions in tandem with the project.
The 20-LP For the Birds: The Birdsong Project is available to preorder now.
“Birds bring boundless joy into our lives through their music, their colors and their flight. Birds also tell us about the health of our own communities and the world we share,” Dr. Elizabeth Gray, CEO of Audubon, said in a statement.
“Their message for us is serious: We must act decisively to protect our air, water, climate and natural spaces to ensure birds have the places they need – that we all need – to survive and thrive in the future. Everyone has a part to play in making a better world, and we are so thankful for the extraordinary and generous outpouring of creativity to bring The Birdsong Project to life.”