Some musicologists believe that birdsong has had a large influence on the development of music. Although the extent of this influence is impossible to gauge, it is sometimes easy to see some of the specific ways composers have integrated birdsong with music.
There seem to be three general ways musicians or composers can be affected by birdsong: they can be influenced or inspired (consciously or unconsciously) by birdsong, they can include intentional imitations of bird song in a composition, or they can incorporate recordings of birds into their works.
One early example of a composition that imitates birdsong is Janequin's "Le Chant Des Oiseaux", written in the 16th century. Other composers who have quoted birds or have used birdsong as a compositional springboard include Vivaldi (Spring from the Four Seasons)), Biber (Sonata Representativa), Beethoven (Sixth Symphony), Wagner (Siegfried) and the jazz musicians Paul Winter (Flyway) and Jeff Silverbush (Grandma Mickey).
The twentieth-century French composer Olivier Messiaen composed with birdsong extensively. His Catalogue d'Oiseaux is a seven-book set of solo piano pieces based upon birdsong. His orchestral piece Réveil des Oiseaux is composed almost entirely of birdsong. Many of his other compositions, including Quatuor pour la fin du temps, similarly integrate birdsong.
The Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, with his The Pines of Rome (1923–1924), may have been the first to compose a piece of music that calls for pre-recorded birdsong. A few years later, Respighi wrote Gli Uccelli ("The birds"), based on Baroque pieces imitating birds.
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara in 1972 wrote an orchestral piece of music called Cantus Arcticus (Opus 61, dubbed Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) making extensive use of pre-recorded birdsongs from Arctic regions, such as migrating swans.
The American jazz musician Eric Dolphy sometimes listened to birds while he practiced flute. He claimed to have incorporated bird song into some of his improvisational music.
In the psychedelic era of the 1960s and 1970s, many rock bands included sound effects in their recordings. Birds were a popular choice. The English band Pink Floyd included bird sound effects in many of the songs from their 1969 albums Soundtrack from the Film More and Ummagumma (for example, Grantchester Meadows). Similarly, the English singer Kate Bush incorporated bird sound effects into much of the music on her 2005 album, Aerial.
The Music hall artist Ronnie Ronalde has gained notoriety for his whistling imitations of birds and for integrating birdsong with human song. His songs 'In A Monastery Garden' and 'If I Were A Blackbird' include imitations of the blackbird, his "signature bird."
The French composer François-Bernard Mâche has been credited with the creation of zoomusicology, the study of the music of animals. His essay Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion (1983) includes a study of "ornitho-musicology", in which he speaks of "animal musics" and a longing to connect with nature.
The German DJ, techno music producer and naturalist Dominik Eulberg is an avid bird watcher, and several tracks by him prominently feature sampled bird sounds and even are titled after his favourite specimens.
The productions of The Jewelled Antler Collective often use field recordings featuring birdsong.
In 2007, The CT Collective issed two free albums devoted to music made using bird songs (one with human interaction, one without). The project was co-ordinated by looping musician Nick Robinson