Active Listening: Catalogue d’oiseaux by Aaron Tucker | Book*hug Press

Active Listening: Catalogue d’oiseaux by Aaron Tucker

Catalogue d'oiseaux by Aaron Tucker

Book*hug’s Active Listening series invites authors to create playlists for their books, and offers them a space to draw parallels between the two. Why is this song a perfect match for the book? Why is this song essential to listen to in order to understand it? These are questions that Active Listening is interested in answering.

Our series begins with Aaron Tucker’s Catalogue d’oiseaux, which recounts a year in the life of a couple separated by distance, carefully documenting time spent together and apart. Traced through art, architecture, and the cultural life of various cities, this expansive poem moves sensually through small, intimate spaces and the larger world alike. Klara du Plessis writes, “Aaron Tucker’s Catalogue d’oiseaux fractures Olivier Messiaen’s music of the same name into poetic lenses through which to relive the past in a continuous and unfurling present.”

We asked Aaron to create an official Catalogue d’oiseaux playlist—which you can find and enjoy below—and to share his thoughts about it with readers:

“To some embarrassment, my MA thesis, written over a decade ago, is a thinly veiled autobiography-as-novel about the development of my musical taste in relation to my coming of age. I don’t dare put the title to this thesis here for fear it will be unearthed, though I’m not particularly ashamed of it. It’s more that I don’t want to foist any of its messiness on Julia, my partner, the other half of Catalogue d’oiseaux. I know her opinion of it because she found my hardbound copy of it, stashed away for over a decade, and began reading random pages from it, pausing only to hyperventilate from laughter.

“But this unnamed thesis is, in some ways, a good companion to Catalogue d’oiseaux. My thesis was written when I was 23, after I was still learning to be away from my family in British Columbia and be on my own, halfway across the country in Windsor, Ontario. I’m not ashamed of this time in my life either, but it was chaotic, full of self-discovery, love and anger in near equal parts. Catalogue d’oiseaux, by comparison, borrows a lot from that time in my life, but reflects it back with the calm of a decade and half of distance. While the title of book pulls from Olivier Messiaen’s composition for his wife Yvonne Loriod, the soundtrack to the poem, for me, is the interweaving of various birdsongs with the sounds of travel, the click of trains on rails, the hum of an airplane in the sky, the car radio on a road trip, that ensure the couple in the poem, having gone their separate ways, will return to each other eventually.

“The songs I chose for this playlist include some Loriod’s performance of Catalogue d’oiseaux as well as the two Glenn Gould versions of The Goldberg Variations described in the poem. I’ve populated the rest of the playlist with songs that Julia and I have shared with each other: some of the songs are those we sent to each other while she was in Germany, others we shared when we were together in Toronto, others still are songs we both remember from our youth, that we have talked about and through. It’s an eclectic mix but its harmony comes from the memories they ignite, the instances of hearing and caring about the same thing at the same time, together. I think listeners will be able to hear themselves in this gesture, connect their own versions of a playlist to their own versions of the poem, hopefully celebrate in similar ways.”

Enjoy the playlist! If you prefer to listen while reading the book, which we highly recommend, Catalogue d’oiseaux is available to order from our online shop, or from your local independent bookstore.

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