Catherine Neville HS

“Birds” for flute quartet (Piccolo, Flute 1, Flute 2, Flute 3/Bass Flute, Alto Flute) by Catherine Neville

Inspired by backyard sounds and the music of Messiaen, this work uses pan-diatonicism and atonal counterpoint to evoke birds in flight, singing separately (yet together!) and heading home to their trees. The broad range of timbres offered by the flute family, from piccolo to bass, is a beautiful palette of sound. This palette is well-suited for the lightness of contrapuntal birdsong, but also for the peacefulness of pre-dawn and early evening, and for the expansiveness of a clear blue sky. 

Originally composed for this combination of flutes, for a purely acoustic setting, I’ve also arranged this work for flute, oboe, viola, and cello with electronics (recorded birdsong). A recording of that performance is attached below. The flute quartet can be performed with or without the electronic component.

Additional Notes from Catherine Neville:

I’m emotional about everything I write, but this piece holds particular sentimental value for me: it was the first work that made me realize I am a composer. As a clarinetist, the bird calls within Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” fascinated me, leading me on a journey of instrumental technique and explorations of music theory. From there, I began creating my own snippets of ‘bird song,’ which eventually coalesced into this piece. This quartet has undergone many transformations and arrangements, it’s genesis reflecting my musical growth.  

This element of growth is reflected in the score video: the opening screen is a photo of a section of sidewalk in my hometown, Enumclaw, WA. An image of a purple finch next to its notated song is engraved into the cement. I snapped the photo because the juxtaposition of freedom and permanence, a wild bird’s song permanently etched into cement, speaks to a fundamental contrast that generates so much of humanity’s creative work.

To listen to “Birds” please visit: OR

You can purchase the score by contacting Catherine Neville directly at The score costs $25.

For more information, please contact And, to explore more of Catherine Neville’s music visit:

Perusal score can be found HERE.

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